Italy v Sweden (Tactical Report)

Against a Sweden side, that relied heavily on striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic's ability to hold up play, the newly appointed Chelsea coach's game-plan was always going to come under question.

Striker Zaza, who impressed with his hustling after replacing the disappointing Pelle, managed to guide a Giorgio Chiellini throw into the path of Brazilian-born forward Eder, who dribbled his way through the Swedish defence to slot the ball into the left corner of Andreas Isaksson's net.

Sweden was always going to pose a different threat for Antonio Conte's Italy. The Azzuris' counter-attacking strategy worked perfectly against a Belgium side blessed with ball-playing footballers. But against a Sweden side, that relied heavily on striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic's ability to hold up play, the newly appointed Chelsea coach's game-plan was always going to come under question.

Wing-backs the key

Conte opted to employ the same strategy counter-attacking against Sweden, with a slightly more attack-minded Alessandro Florenzi replacing Matteo Darmian as the left wing-back in the 3-5-2 formation. He, along with Antonio Candreva in the right, were the biggest source of attacks for Italy, constantly making marauding runs in the their respective wings and delivering delightful crosses into the box. But the 6 feet 4 inch tall Southampton striker Graziano Pelle failed in his link-up play with fellow striker Eder.

Sweden switches off

Though Sweden had no shots on target in the entire game, quite surprising considering how the pre-tournament hype was around EURO 2016 being striker Ibrahimovic's last chance to leave a mark in the international stage, the yellow-army looked the better side, dominating in possession, till it conceded in the 88th minute.

This Italy team might not have the same aura as some of its predecessors but the foundation is still the same - defensively solid and clinical in attack. The latter quality was highlighted when striker Zaza, who impressed with his hustling after replacing the disappointing Pelle, managed to guide a Giorgio Chiellini throw into the path of Brazilian-born forward Eder, who dribbled his way through the Swedish defence to slot the ball into the left corner of Andreas Isaksson's net (see picture).

No Pirlo, no problem!

Not really. But in the absence of Andrea Pirlo, Marco Veratti and Claudio Marchisio, PSG midfielder Thiago Motta was expected to play the role of the deep-lying midfielder. Instead, Conte has opted for grit in Italy's midfield in Daniel de Rossi, Emanuele Giaccherini and Marco Parolo. The play making role has been taken over by the central defenders in the squad. Leonardo Bonucci's pin-point pass to Giaccherini unlocked the Belgium side in its first match of the tournament.

Bonucci and his defensive partner Chiellini were constantly seen distributing long balls to both the wing-backs throughout this match as well. While they do not posses 'Pirloesque' precision, the centre backs have clearly been instructed to take up the role as playmakers in the team. This was highlighted when defender Andrea Barzagli miss-hit a long pass in the second-half only to see his coach Conte applauding and offering encouragement. It's clearly a strategy that the Italians would look to continue but whether opposition forwards, who would have watched the two matches, will allow that space, remains to be seen.