'Apocalypse' now as Italy face World Cup humiliation


Italy host Sweden in the second leg on Monday at San Siro, looking to overturn the narrow defeat in Solna in attempt to reach a 15th consecutive finals.

As such, anything other than qualification is nearly certain to result in the sacking of current coach Giampiero Ventura with a number of names being linked to the Azzurri bench. The team has been out of World Cup only twice - in 1930, the first-ever World Cup when they did not enter, and in 1958. "There is tension, it's similar to a game I played in 1993 against Portugal, but I can't imagine a World Cup without Italy".

Marco Verratti is suspended for Monday's game with Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci wearing a protective mask after breaking his nose in a bruising first leg against Sweden in Stockholm.

"It is certainly a moment of high tension, considering what is at stake and the sense of responsibility each of us must bear", said 2006 victor Buffon, who will earn his 175th cap in the San Siro.

Sweden will be bidding to make their first World Cup since 2006, having missed out on the last two editions. We are not stressed, personally I am focused on the game and I hope fans will support us.

He added: "We want to send Italians a message not with words, but with action on the pitch".

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"They developed well and have good individual players. It s too important for Italy and for all our football", said Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco.

"I would love for those who come to the stadium tomorrow to take off their club colours and all wear the Azzurri jersey that unites us all".

Coach Ventura is under enormous pressure and will nearly certainly lose his job should Italy fail, while some are even expecting him to be sacked regardless of Monday's result, with Carlo Ancelotti waiting in the wings. "We have nothing to lose and we will go onto the pitch to give a great performance".

Sweden coach Janne Andersson.

"We know that keeping a clean sheet will take us to the World Cup, so that is our intention".