Eder cracker takes Italy through
Brazil-born striker Eder overcame an otherwise patchy performance to hit a cracking late winner in a 1-0 victory over Sweden that sent Italy into the last 16 of Euro 2016 on Friday.
Eder, playing in his first major finals for Italy after being naturalised last year, came close to being substituted by Antonio Conte after a dismal opening half up front alongside Southampton striker Graziano Pelle.
But the Inter Milan striker had the Italy bench celebrating wildly on the pitch at the Stadium de Toulouse with a well-taken 88th minute strike after running on to Simone Zaza’s header to beat Andreas Eriksson at his far post.
Italy, a 2-0 winner over Belgium last week, now tops Group E with six points, leaving Sweden, which had late claims for a penalty waved away, realistically needing to beat Belgium on Wednesday if it is to have any hope of making it to the knockout phase.
All eyes were on captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the towering striker sought to make his mark by becoming the first man to score in four editions of the competition.
But a cautious Italy restricted him to few real chances.
Swedish fans were given hope after just two minutes when Ibrahimovic rose to meet a high cross, but Giorgio Chiellini cleared with his head. It was one of few real chances for Erik Hamren’s men in a tight first half.
Italy’s formidable three-man defence meant Gianluigi Buffon had little to do until he dived to collect Kim Kallstrom’s curling shot
Breaking the monotony
The Azzurri broke the monotony when Candreva collected Florenzi’s cross-field ball to fire in an inviting cross, but Erik Johansson was quick to intercept. At the other end Sweden edged closer, Sebastian Larsson chesting a long cross into the path of Celta Vigo’s John Guidetti only for the striker to skew wide.
Italy started the second half in positive fashion, Pelle controlling Eder’s cutback from a Marco Parolo through ball, but his volley dipped over the crossbar.
Parolo did well to control de Rossi’s pass and set up Candreva on the right, but the Lazio man’s drive into the area was collected by Isaksson, who got down quickly to smother moments later after another Candreva delivery.
On that occasion, Eder was well out of position but it was Pelle who was replaced on the hour, by Simone Zaza.
Minutes later, Florenzi’s high delivery across goal found Candreva at the back post, yet Isaksson again got down low to smother the Lazio man’s low first-time effort.
Italian hopes looked to be dying out and the Azzurri breathed a sigh of relief when Ibrahimovic fired over from a yard out at the back post although he was ruled offside.
Parolo raised Italian hopes on 82 minutes with a header that came off the woodwork.
But it was Eder who rescued Conte’s men with a fine run that took him past the Swedish defence to fire the ball into the net with two minutes of regulation time to play.