Sweden coach Erik Hamren has denied the constant speculation surrounding the future of star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had a destabilising effect on his side at Euro 2016.
The Swedes were poor for the first 50 minutes of Monday’s Group E opener against the Republic of Ireland before a second-half resurgence resulted in Ibrahimovic crossing for Ciaran Clark to nod into his own net to earn a point for Hamren’s men.
Ibrahimovic has confirmed he will leave Paris Saint-Germain when his contract expires at the end of the month but has yet to reveal his next destination.
That has led to daily speculation, with Manchester United heavily linked, but Hamren insists it has not been a topic of discussion in the Sweden camp ahead of Friday’s game with Italy.
“No, it’s nothing that bothers us,” said Hamren. “We are used to it. Players play for club teams and international teams. There are a lot of rumours going round and, obviously, with a big player like Ibrahimovic there are going to be a lot of rumours.
“It doesn’t affect us at all. I haven’t felt anything destructive, we are used to it, that’s football.”
Antonio Conte’s Italy produced a fine display in their 2-0 defeat of Belgium and Hamren is expecting a tough test in Toulouse.
“Italy are a team that have impressed me,” he added. “They perhaps don’t have the big stars they used to but they have a strong team nonetheless. They are really organised, very good defensively and offensively. They were very good against Belgium.
“It’s a big challenge but we are looking forward to it.
“We have to be effective. We probably won’t have that many chances so we have to take the ones that we get. We have to be patient and expect Italy to have the majority of possession, be calm and use our heads.
“A switch in play, or set-pieces, they will be our best chances of scoring on Friday.”
Hamren confirmed Celtic full-back Mikael Lustig is unlikely to play any further part in the group stage due to an injury he suffered against the Republic of Ireland.
Italy players want revenge on Germany – Ventura
Italy head coach Giampiero Ventura says his players will be out for revenge when they take on Germany at San Siro.
Tuesday’s friendly is the first meeting between the two sides since the world champions knocked Italy out of Euro 2016 in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out when they were managed by Antonio Conte.
Ventura thinks wanting to atone for that defeat is a normal emotion for his squad, but stressed what he most wants to see is signs of progress, rather than a victory at any cost.
“There is obviously a will to get revenge after defeat at the Euros,” he said at his pre-match media conference. “I believe that is normal, but the performance is more important than the result.
“Germany are the most well-organised side on the planet, so it’s not the best game to experiment in but I’m not fearful – we try to play football and win every game.
“A weaker opponent would have been better to try some new things. Italy v Germany is a big fixture that cannot be disregarded.
“Results matter but you need to look at the bigger picture, obviously with an eye on planning.
“Our future is not just tomorrow. The Germany game must offer a glance into the future that we want.
“My debut was against France [a 3-1 home friendly loss in September] and people only spoke about the result, but my aim is to care for the young players.
“The result will matter and I know that. However, there will be other things to look at after the match.
“After we play Germany we have to understand what the match taught us. They are the world champions.”
Ventura revealed he has learned much about international management since replacing Conte at the helm and reiterated his belief that his job was a long-term project.
He added: “I’m proud to be Italy coach. There is a will to develop and be involved and I don’t have regrets.
“I have always come into jobs where there’s a need to rebuild. So now I feel comfortable doing so.
“To achieve your objectives, a complete programme is needed. You need a system and Germany are a good example of that.
“I didn’t quite understand the difficulties of international management before. There is a will to work but more time is needed.”
Ventura: Italy could have scored double
Giampiero Ventura acknowledged Italy could have doubled their goal tally in the 4-0 win at Liechtenstein, but was nonetheless impressed with his side’s performance.
Andrea Belotti scored twice in the World Cup qualifier, with Ciro Immobile and Antonio Candreva also on target in the first half.
Italy failed to score after the break, though, meaning they remain behind Group G leaders Spain – who hit eight past Liechtenstein earlier in the campaign – on goal difference.
Ventura was impressed by Italy’s attitude in Saturday’s match, despite the fact they did not hit the same heights in the second period.
“The results of the other sides are irrelevant,” the head coach told Rai when asked about matching Spain’s 8-0 win over the same opponents.
“If we stopped to count, we could have doubled our tally with the chances we created.
“But I repeat what I said before, which was that the important thing was to win. I am satisfied with the performance.
“The first half was good, as we scored four goals and had at least four other clear-cut chances.
“In the second half there was great concentration, we needed just a fifth goal to spark the enthusiasm again, but during breaks in play you could see six of us in the opposition area and that says everything about the attitude.
“Everyone worked hard and we scored some fine goals.”
Italy host world champions Germany in a friendly at San Siro on Tuesday, but Ventura thinks the real results of the hard work his team are putting in will not be seen immediately.
He added: “We are working hard – coming up there is Germany and some training get-togethers.
“We might not see the fruits of the labour tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow – and then we should be proud.”
Pelle ´starting again´ with Italy goal
Graziano Pelle hopes his goal against France marks a fresh start for his Italy career after failing from the spot in their Euro 2016 penalty shootout.
In the quarter-final against Germany, Pelle appeared to suggest to opposition goalkeeper Manuel Neuer that he was going to chip his effort down the middle, before sending his kick tamely wide of the left-hand post.
Italy eventually lost 6-5 in Antonio Conte’s final game before departing to take over at Chelsea.
Conte’s successor Giampiero Ventura took charge of the side for the first time on Thursday, with Pelle scoring in a 3-1 friendly defeat to France, and the Shandong Luneng striker hopes his goal sets him on the road to redemption with Azzurri fans.
“I left Italy fans crying and I really want to make it up to them,” said Pelle, in quotes reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I’ll start again from this goal, because I want to stay with the national team for a long time.”
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