Toulouse - Brazil-born striker Eder overcame an otherwise patchy performance to
hit a cracking late winner in a 1-0 victory over Sweden that sent Italy
into the last 16 of Euro 2016 on Friday.
Eder, playing in his
first major finals for Italy after being naturalised last year, came
close to being substituted by Antonio Conte after a dismal opening half
up front alongside Southampton striker Graziano Pelle.
Inter Milan striker had the Italy bench celebrating wildly on the pitch
at the Stadium de Toulouse with a well-taken 88th minute strike after
running on to Simone Zaza's header to beat Andreas Eriksson at his far
"I'm very happy with the goal," said Eder, who this season
has struggled to make an impact at Inter Milan after moving from
Sampdoria in January.
"I'm delighted for the team, and I'm very happy the coach has kept faith with me.
think it helped me I wasn't playing for Inter Milan a lot at the end of
the season. That helped me to save some energy for this championships
and also allowed me to work a lot of my fitness."
winners over Belgium last week, now top Group E with six points, leaving
Sweden, who had late claims for a penalty waved away, realistically
needing to beat Belgium on Wednesday if they are to have any hope of
making it to the knockout phase.
After a mediocre display in
Sweden's 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland, all eyes were on captain
Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the towering striker sought to make his mark by
becoming the first man to score in four editions of the competition.
a cautious Italy restricted the former Juventus and Paris Saint Germain
striker to few real chances in front of a huge army of yellow-clad
Defender Giorgio Chiellini was handed that task but he said it took a concerted effort.
can't afford to give strikers like him an inch. He can transform balls
that most humans can do nothing with into goals," said the Juventus
"But it took the whole team to help close him down. Zlatan is 80 percent of Sweden's team."
tight first half saw few chances at either end as Italy's formidable
three-man defence of Andre Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Chiellini kept
Ibrahimovic in check, whilst Pelle and Eder failed to shine on their
few real forays up the park.
Veteran Italy captain Gianluigi
Buffon had little to do in goal until he dived to collect Kim
Kallstrom's curling shot, and the Juventus 'keeper was happy to see
Martin Olsson's drive whistle past the post soon after.
edged closer as the half wore on, Sebastian Larsson chesting a long
cross into the path of Celta Vigo's John Guidetti only for the striker
to skew wide.
Italy started the second half in positive fashion,
Pelle controlling Eder's cutback from a Marco Parolo through ball, but
his volley dipped over the crossbar.
Parolo did well to control De
Rossi's pass and set up Candreva on the right, but the Lazio man's
drive into the area was collected by Isaksson, who got down quickly to
smother moments later after another Candreva delivery.
On that occasion, Eder was well out of position but it was Pelle who was replaced on the hour, by Zaza.
later, Florenzi's high delivery across goal found Candreva at the back
post, yet Isaksson again got down low to smother the Lazio man's low
Italian hopes looked to be dying out and the
Azzurri breathed a sigh of relief when Ibrahimovic fired over from a
yard out at the back post although he was ruled offside.
Parolo was inches away from the opener on 82 minutes with a header that came off the woodwork.
it was Eder who rescued Conte's men with a fine run that took him past
the Swedish defence to fire the ball into the net with two minutes to