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Italy on the Brink of Missing Out on World Cup

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Italy face failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after substitute Jakob Johansson gave Sweden a 1-0 first-leg lead in their play-off encounter.
Questions over Gian Piero Ventura’s abilities as head coach of the Azzurri must now be met with a decisive answer in Monday’s return at San Siro after a disjointed display in Solna.
Watched on by the iconic Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the stands, Sweden’s robust forward duo Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen proved a handful for the unusually discomforted Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in Italy’s defence.
AEK Athens midfielder Johansson had not been on the field for four minutes as Albin Ekdal’s replacement when Italy failed to deal with a long throw just after the hour and he beat Gianluigi Buffon via a deflection.
Matteo Darmian came closest to finding an equaliser when he was denied by the post but a tough task awaits in Milan, especially after influential midfielder Marco Verratti collected a booking to rule himself out of Ventura’s date with destiny.
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