In Summary
  • Substitute Jakob Johansson grabbed the only goal of a scrappy game in the 61st minute with a low strike that found the corner with the aid of a big deflection.
  • Gian Piero Ventura's Italy will need to respond in Monday's return leg at the San Siro in Milan to avoid becoming only the second Azzurri outfit to fail to reach the finals.

STOCKHOLM

Sweden claimed a precious 1-0 first-leg victory over Italy in their World Cup play-off at Stockholm on Friday, leaving the four-time champions in danger of missing the tournament for the first time in 60 years.

Substitute Jakob Johansson grabbed the only goal of a scrappy game in the 61st minute with a low strike that found the corner with the aid of a big deflection.

Gian Piero Ventura's Italy will need to respond in Monday's return leg at the San Siro in Milan to avoid becoming only the second Azzurri outfit to fail to reach the finals.

The last time Italy failed to reach the World Cup was for the 1958 tournament in Sweden, but Ventura's side were already under pressure going into the tie after a disappointing end to their Group G campaign that featured a 3-0 loss in Spain and a 1-1 home draw with Macedonia.

"We could have done better, of course, but there are still 90 minutes left to play," Ventura, who took over from Antonio Conte after Euro 2016, said.

"It was a tough, physical match that could have gone a different way if we scored first.

"The performance of the referee was good overall, but I think that he allowed the match to be physical at the expense of technique... He probably didn't have complete control of the match."

Andrea Belotti shook off an injury to partner Ciro Immobile up front, but the away team struggled to pose a consistent attacking threat, as Ventura left in-form Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne sitting on the bench until the 76th minute.

Both sides created early half-chances, with Torino striker Belotti heading wide when he should have done better, and Ola Toivonen firing past the post at the other end just seconds later.

Page 1 of 2