STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Italy manager Gian Piero Ventura was left to rue an early missed chance in a tough, physical encounter on Friday that sees Sweden take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of their World Cup playoff with a goal from substitute Jakob Johansson.
“It could have gone a different way, if we scored first for example such as when (Andrea) Belotti’s header went wide. Now we have 90 minutes left to play,” Ventura told a media conference ahead of the return in Milan on Monday.
“The game was very physical, and we suffered from that. We must improve. Physically we can’t do much, we only have a day and a half, but we have to read the game better next time. We hope the crowd at the San Siro give us the support we need.”
Ventura was visibly angry on the sidelines, gesticulating frequently to his players several times as Italy’s attack failed to find a way through the massed ranks of the Swedish defence.
The 69-year-old coach was still certain his team would qualify for next year’s finals in Russia and not miss out on the tournament for the first time since 1958 in Sweden.
“When I was in the dressing room I saw how angry and frustrated they were. They know they can do better. The game was very physical and that surprised us but we can do better,” said Ventura.
Sweden coach Jan Andersson was pleased with his side’s performance, but said he was well aware that this was just the midway point in the tie.
“We are halfway through this playoff, which is very important to point out. We have talked a lot about bravery and giving ourselves a chance... and I think overall we did that today again,” Andersson told reporters.
“I’m very happy we won the game... but it was the attitude for 90 minutes that helped us,” he said after Johansson scored just past the hour having just come off the bench.
“We’ll do an analysis of the game and make a new gameplan for... Monday. I’m still here tonight - I haven’t gone any further in my mind about the game on Monday.”
Andersson agreed with Ventura about the physicality of the match, but it came as no surprise to the Swedes.
“It was a physical game and we were prepared for it. It was one of the keys to the game, to win the duels. I don’t think we were favoured in any way (by the referee),” he said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris