Italy booked their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2016 after Eder’s late solo goal gave them a 1-0 win against Sweden in a largely dull match in a sun-soaked Toulouse.
In a game of few chances, the Sampdoria forward produced a moment of magic two minutes from time to ensure Antonio Conte’s men were the second team – after the hosts France – through to the last 16.
Italy made one change to the side that was so impressive in a 2-0 win against Belgium, with Alessandro Florenzi replacing Manchester United’s Matteo Darmian at left wing-back as the Azzurri once again lined up in a 3-5-2 formation.
Sweden made three alterations to the team that drew 1-1 against the Republic of Ireland, with all of the players that came on as substitutes – Eric Johansson, Albin Ekdal and John Guidetti coming in for Mikael Lustig, Oscar Lewicki and Marcus Berg respectively.
Sweden started on the front foot and went close to creating a chance in the second minute, when former Arsenal midfielder Kim Kallstrom’s brilliant left-wing cross was well headed away by Giorgio Chiellini under pressure from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Although Erik Hamren’s men had the upper hand in the first half, they failed to create any clear-cut chances, with their best opportunity coming five minutes before the break, when Sebastian Larsson chested the ball down for Guidetti outside the penalty area, but the former Manchester City forward could only hit his half-volley high and wide of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal.
Four minutes after the interval, Graziano Pelle had a chance to test Andreas Isaksson in the Sweden goal, but following Eder’s cut-back, the Southampton striker could only send his volley high and wide.
The opportunities were few and far between – a possible sign of how teams see the new format that allows the four best third-placed teams to qualify as well as if you finish in the top two – but Florenzi did chip the ball to fellow wing-back, Antonio Candreva on the right, but his volleyed cross evaded everyone and went straight into the arms of Andreas Isaksson.
Sweden had a chance with 18 minutes left on the clock, but Sebastian Larsson failed to make a connection with Martin Olsson’s fine cross from the left, before the ball reached Ibrahimovic at the far post. Incredibly, the striker blasted the ball over from two yards out, and would have been relieved to have seen the linesman’s offside flag when he turned around.
Italy went close again in the 82nd minute, when Emanuele Giaccherini’s cross was met by the head of Marco Parolo, but the midfielder, who is yet to score for his country, could only direct his header onto the crossbar from six yards.
However, the decisive moment in Toulouse came two minutes from time, and it was brilliant from Eder, who ran infield, past two players before curling a stunning effort past Isaksson in the Sweden goal from the edge of the box.
Man of the Match: Eder (Italy)
In arguably the worst game of the tournament so far, it was always going to need a moment of magic to separate Italy and Sweden, and the Sampdoria forward produced it two minutes from time, as he jinked in-field, past a couple of defenders before unleashing a brilliant curling effort past Andreas Isaksson, to take the Azzurri through to the last 16.
Italy know they have already booked their place in the last 16 and could choose to rest some key players when they face the Republic of Ireland in Lille on Wednesday night, while Sweden know they will need a win if they are to have any chance of progressing when they play Belgium in Nice.