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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Euro 2004 play of the day
How Italy will try to keep Sweden out
By Phil McNulty
Our man in Portugal

The likely line-ups for Italy's important Group C tie with Sweden on Friday

Italy's confrontation with Sweden promises to be one of the most intriguing games of Euro 2004 - particularly after the Swedes' 5-0 demolition of Bulgaria in their opening match.

And it is clear where the key element of this encounter lies.

It is in the ability of the traditionally mean Italian defence to cope with Sweden's triple attacking threat of Henrik Larsson, Freddie Ljungberg and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Against Bulgaria, Larsson played through the centre with Ljungberg to his left and the giant Ibrahimovic to his right.

The ploy worked brilliantly, with Ibrahimovic setting up Ljungberg's opener before Larsson crowned his return to international football with two goals.

The interplay between the three was superb, with the darting runs and pace of Larsson and Ljungberg perfectly allied to the unpredictable talents of Ibrahimovic.

Larsson, in particular, looked a man on a mission, and Italy will also have to be on the look-out for the way he expertly drops deep, a gift which allowed him to set up Marcus Allback's fifth and final goal in the rout of Bulgaria.

But Italy will be well aware of this danger, so expect them to have their own theory on how to stop an attack which has looked one of the most fluent on show in Portugal so far.

In Alessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro, Italy have two of the shrewdest defensive operators around and they will be on their guard, but any signs of weakness will be ruthlessly exploited by the Swedes.





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