Sunderland forward Emanuele Giaccherini has hailed Italy’s courage and determination after clinching progress to the knockout stage of Euro 2016.
Giaccherini, who scored in Italy’s opening 2-0 win over Belgium, helped the Azzurri overcome resilient Sweden 1-0 to make it six points from six in Group E.
Antonio Conte’s squad had been criticised for being among the worst national teams in Italy’s history in the build-up to Euro 2016, but Eder’s 88th-minute winner secured a last-16 slot, with the Republic of Ireland to come in their final group game on Wednesday.
“This Italy side proved it has cojones,” Giaccherini, who impressed on a season-long loan at Bologna last term, told Eurosport.
“(This) game was far more difficult compared to Belgium, as we knew Sweden would sit deep and refuse to give us any spaces. They made it hard for us to find width too.
“We felt rather nervous and anxious in the first half, as we felt the pressure of the occasion, but we did much better as time wore on and deserved the victory.”
Sweden had Sunderland midfielder Seb Larsson in their side, as they slumped to a devastating defeat without managing a shot on target for the second game in a row. They drew their opening game with Ireland thanks to a Ciaran Clark own goal.