International round-up: Bonucci and Italy lose to Sweden, Rodriguez and Kalinić score in the WC playoff 1st leg

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Nikola Kalinić andLuka Modrić celebrate during the Croatia-Greece FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off first leg at Stadion Maksimir on November 9, 2017 in Zagreb, Croatia (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Nikola Kalinić andLuka Modrić celebrate during the Croatia-Greece FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off first leg at Stadion Maksimir on November 9, 2017 in Zagreb, Croatia (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

The Azzurri had a very poor showing in Sweden last night, while Croatia and Switzerland made steps towards to the 2018 World Cup, and Ivory Coast will play for a ticket to Russia this evening.

The November 2017 international break is underway and so far, it has been a mixed bag for the Rossoneri representatives.

Last night in Solna, with Gianluigi Donnarumma on the bench for 90 minutes and Leonardo Bonucci alongside his old Juventus teammates Gigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, Italy and Gian Piero Ventura took on Sweden in the first leg of the 2018 World Cup qualification playoff.

Ventura decided to play 3-5-2 but it simply did not work. For Milan fans this type of match seemed familiar as the two strikers had zero chemistry while the midfield was nonexistent, with everything starting from the back three. It really did look as though Ventura was talking to Vincenzo Montella before the match for some tips, because Italy just looked very, very poor in this set-up.

With Zlatan Ibrahimović watching from the stands, Sweden, who played a very physical match, were the better side (despite not really creating too many goal-scoring chances) and in the 61′ minute, Jakob Johansson’s shot was deflected into the back of the net. Bonucci finished the match with a fractured nose after getting elbowed by Ola Toivonen in the very first minute of the encounter.

Italy will just have to do better in the return leg at San Siro on Monday night (20:45 CET). The Azzurri fans around the world will hope that 2017-Milan-esque performance doesn’t repeat itself.

Andrea Belotti, Ciro Immobile, Leonardo Bonucci, Marco Parolo and Giorgio Chiellini during the Sweden-Italy FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off first leg at Friends Arena on November 10, 2017 in Solna, Sweden. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Andrea Belotti, Ciro Immobile, Leonardo Bonucci, Marco Parolo and Giorgio Chiellini during the Sweden-Italy FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off first leg at Friends Arena on November 10, 2017 in Solna, Sweden. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

On Thursday night in Belfast, Switzerland and Ricardo Rodriguez visited Northern Ireland. The side of Vladimir Petković created several chances but did not have the needed fire power to break through the Green and White Army defense. Then, however, came the controversial call of ref Ovidiu Hațegan.

Hațegan pointed to the white spot, giving the Swiss a penalty. Milan’s Rodriguez stepped up and beat Michael McGovern from 11 meters in the 58′ minute. Switzerland had an excellent Group Stage run, finishing it with 27 points, and on Sunday at 18:00 CET, they will try to book a place in Russia.

Ricardo Rodriguez celebrating during the Northern Ireland-Switzerland FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off first leg at Windsor Park on November 9, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ricardo Rodriguez celebrating during the Northern Ireland-Switzerland FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off first leg at Windsor Park on November 9, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

With Rodriguez was in Belfast, Nikola Kalinić and Croatia hosted Greece for a crucial match. Kalinić was picked to start and played 76 great minutes, getting Man of the Match awards from several news outlets. Croatia scored first through Luka Modrić (13′ pk) and then the Milan striker finished the move that he started with a little backheel flick on the ball to give the Vatreni the 2-0 in the 19′ minute.

Ex-Milan center back Sokratis Papastathopoulos pulled one back for Greece (30′) but Inter’s Ivan Perišić’s header made it 3-1 in the 33′ minute. Andrej Kramarić (49′) scored the last of the night, giving Croatia a 4-1 lead heading into the second leg in Piraeus tomorrow night at 20:45 CET.

Cristian Zapata celebrating during the Republic of Korea-Colombia friendly at Suwon World Cup Stadium on November 10, 2017 in Suwon, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Cristian Zapata celebrating during the Republic of Korea-Colombia friendly at Suwon World Cup Stadium on November 10, 2017 in Suwon, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Some friendlies were also played in the last few days: André Silva played the full match in Portugal’s 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia. While Silva wasn’t on the target, the same can’t be said of Cristian Zapata as he played 90 minutes and scored for Colombia in their 2-1 defeat against Republic of Korea.

Hakan Çalhanoğlu played 64 minutes in Turkey’s 2-0 defeat to Romania on Thursday evening. A bit earlier on Thursday, Manuel Locatelli and Patrick Cutrone played 45 minutes and 70 minutes respectively as Italy U21 lost 2-1 to Serie B’s Pescara, who are coached by Zdeněk Zeman. Matteo Gabbia and Italy U19 meanwhile lost to Netherlands 2-1 in Zeist two days ago.

Moving on to today’s matches, Franck Kessié and Ivory Coast face Morocco (18:30 CET) in a match they have to win in order to qualify for the WC, while Suso and Spain play Costa Rica (21:30 CET).

14 COMMENTS

  1. “Bonucci finished the match with a fractured nose after getting elbowed by Marcus Berg in the very first minute of the encounter.”

    It was Toivonen who elbowed Bonucci. Berg got the yellow card for dissent afterwards.

    Ventura is mad, plain and simple. Even a blind man could see that this Italy need to play 4-3-3, a formation most of the big teams in the league are using (Napoli, Roma and even sometimes Juve). Montella at least tries to deploy a formation to fit all of his best players, as for Ventura, he benches his best and most in-form players in Insigne, Jorginho, Florenzi and 3-5-2 isn’t even the right formation for Verratti as he has never impressed in it, while he’s a guarantee in a 4-3-3 formation. It’s just crazy. Ventura will go down as the most notorious Italian CT in history. He’s simply a fool.

    • Yes, and he brings on Eder who has barely played, and is just an average player, Candreva was poor, where was Insigne from the start? Where was El Shaarawy who is in great form?
      It’s Venturas weird decisions that put Italy in this position in the first place. People were unhappy with him before, imagine if they would miss out which is looking very likely. Although Italy historically have a tendency to step up when they have more pressure on them.

  2. Italy looks exactly like Milan do this season and that is why they lost… And i thought Bonucci was kind of an tough guy on the field but yesterday he cried like a child (Toivonen broke my nose he should have been sent off) and he is supposed to be a captain lol man the f up and take responsability… I really hate that tactic 3-5-2 its like cancer to football

    • Sweden played very physically, so Italy countered with emphasizing and play-acting, it was Sweden who started it to be fair. Berg was incredibly lucky to still be on the pitch.

  3. it’s so sad to see a team like italy that is filled with quality (albeit not so worldclass) players play like this. instead of learning from other coaches, ventura is taking montella as example. Well at least some players in Milan can play 3-5-2, but not most italian players in the NT. it’s good to see kalinic play so well, hopefully he’ll come back to us stronger and hungrier for goals. Montella really needs to step up his game and start getting results cause he’s one game away from getting the sack

  4. I told you so guys, the formation 3-5-2 s very hard to play and indecent for the Azzuri and Milan.
    Both should switch to 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-3

  5. Can we have a week when nobody from our squad gets injured. I know Bonucci can still play, but a broken nose can hinder him getting back to his original self.

  6. Do you know how painful it is to support all of USA, Italy, and milan?

    All so poor. I need Italy to make the World Cup to keep my sanity.

  7. I c bonucci scoring a set piece in d return leg.bcos d second leg will b a different ball game in Sansiro elshawary n bonucci giving Italy d lead.

  8. Ventura is just plain stupid. Italy should be playing a 4 3 3 or a 4 2 3 1. El shaarawy is the most inform Italian and yet doesn’t make the 23 man cut. Why is balotelli still not called up? He would have been a game changer for them. Belotti and immobile are the exact same players. They make the same runs the same everything so why are they starting together? As good as insigne is on napoli he is dreadful for italy. El shaarawy should be playing over him. Ventura is arrogant and that’s what will cost italy the world cup. A world cup without italy is unthinkable so I hope they turn it around today.

  9. Also towards other milan players, Rodriguez single handedly made Switzerland advance. Scoring their only goal and making a goal line clearance. Just shows his worth and what we’ve missed on that left side all these years. Still a young lad so congrats!

  10. Feel really bad for Buffon. He doesn’t deserve to go out like this. Candreva and Ventura should never be near this team again. Sad days for italian fans. Buffon I love you and thank you for everything you have given to us! De rossi too! De rossi barzaghli Chiellini Buffon go out on the night with their heads down. Bit for all that you’ve given they should be held high. Grazie e tutti!

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