Italy do not have a specific plan to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they take on Sweden in their second Euro 2016 group game, despite expecting him to be a big threat.
The Azzurri are looking to seal qualification to the second round on Friday after an impressive 2-0 victory against a strong Belgium side in their tournament opener on Monday.
And while Italy are well aware how much quality Ibrahimovic – who has spent spells with Juventus, Inter and AC Milan – has, they are concentrating on targeting Sweden’s shortcomings.
“Ibrahimovic is a great player, he’d be a threat to any team but we have to play our own game first of all,” Antonio Candreva said. “We must be good at exploiting their weaknesses.
“Ibrahimovic has shown how good he is on the pitch. We always expect a lot from him, it’s normal.
“We were already preparing for Sweden, we have tested specific tactics.
“Every game must be addressed as against Belgium, we would like to close the group against Sweden.”
While Italy are confident of overcoming Sweden at the Stade de Toulouse on Friday, Alessandro Florenzi expects it to be a tight affair.
“Only three matches have had a winning margin of two goals. This says a lot about the standard at Euro 2016,” he added.
“[Giorgio] Chiellini and [Gianluigi] Buffon’s records speak for themselves. We see them, they only want to win and it’s great to have them with us.
“The fact that the team comes first is a concept that I strongly believe. It’s not a slogan, it’s seen as an important value.”
Italy coach Antonio Conte was praised for a tactical masterclass as goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle saw off Belgium, just hours after Sweden had managed a 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland.
Ibrahimovic’s cross was sent into the back of the net by Republic of Ireland defender Ciaran Clark, rescuing a point after Wes Hoolahan had given Martin O’Neill’s team an early second-half lead.
However, Erik Hamren’s team did not manage to get a single shot on target in the game.
The stats suggest there could be goals in the game as Italy have not kept a clean sheet against Sweden in their last six non-friendly meetings, but they are unbeaten in their last 11 competitive games under Conte.
Should Italy overcome Sweden, history suggests they could have a good tournament as the only previous time they won their first two matches in a European Championship was in 2000, when they reached the final.
Key Opta Stats:
– Sweden have never scored more than once in their last eight matches versus Italy, a run dating back to 1984.
– This will be the third time Italy have met Sweden in the European Championships; the Azzurri claimed victory in the 2000 edition (2-1) whilst the meeting four years later ended as a draw (1-1).
– Giorgio Chiellini’s first half headed goal helped Italy to a 1-0 win versus Sweden when these sides last met in a 2009 friendly.
– Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the last Swedish player to score against Italy, back in June 2004 at the Euros (1-1). None of his four shots against the Republic of Ireland were on target.