Odds: Italy 83/100, The Draw 5/2, Sweden 4/1
Italian football, more than any other one of the beautiful game’s manifold strains, seems to exist in a vacuum of cliché.
A reputation for extreme, occasionally self-defeating, pragmatism is its most oft-touted stereotyping, but an acknowledgement that the national team is never more dangerous than when written off receives nearly as many citations.
There was little in the way of confidence behind them in the build-up to their opening fixture of Euro 2016 against Belgium.
A medium-term dearth of classy centre-forwards and forward-going creativity had combined with a midfield injury crisis to leave what many had regarded as the worst Azzurri squad to contest a major tournament for some time.
Naturally, they subverted expectations to burst the bubble of a dysfunctional Belgium with a particularly efficient 2-0 victory that could have been more convincing still but for some Graziano Pelle profligacy.
Available at 14/1 in the outright betting before the start of the tournament, the bwin odds moguls have wasted little time trimming three points off their price.
They can book their place in the second round with a game to go by defeating a Sweden side that were second best for much of their clash with the Republic of Ireland.
Erik Hamren’s men have proven stalemate specialists in recent times, drawing five of their last eight internationals, but they should be shucked from their shells by the pressing need to accumulate the points they need to progress.
Having passed up the chance of beating their weakest Group E opponents, things are already looking desperate.
It all adds up to just the kind of position of power from which Antonio Conte would prefer that his team do business.
Win, Lose or Draw?
For all the derision surrounding Italy’s chances in the build up to Euro 2016, their form really hasn’t been all that off-putting.
The Azzurri rounded out their qualifying campaign with four straight victories before big losses to Belgium (subsequently avenged) and Germany proved chastening digestifs, but they have also held Spain this year.
More recently, they won both of their warm-ups comfortably to nil against Scotland and Finland and now find themselves on a three-victory streak, during which they’ve netted five goals without a single one in reply.
Defensive strength should provide the platform for the Italians to edge out the Blagult in Toulouse.
The distinctly moderate threat posed by the Swedish attack, even with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in harness, was evident against the Irish, where they failed to muster a single shot on target in the entire game.
Having now struck one or less in four of their last five outings, there is every chance Italy can enhance their already tasty win odds by doing so while keeping a clean sheet.
The Azzurri are expected to prevail against the Blagult, but any pyrotechnics are expected to be limited to those smuggled in by rule-bending fandom.
Italy have registered more than two goals once in 37 international matches dating back to a 4-3 win over Japan in June 2013.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s already-namechecked dour side has seen them give up one or less in eight of their last ten.
Who will do the damage?
The emphatic fashion with which Pelle belatedly atoned for his earlier misses against the Belgians shouldn’t distract scorer bettors from seeking better value elsewhere due to his wastefulness at this level.
Antonio Candreva set up his late strike last time out and the Lazio man is equally integral to his side’s forward sorties.
He has bagged four times in his last eight games for club and country and often takes penalty responsibility for the Azzurri too.
Whether they have been vital to the destination of the points or simply lily guilders, late goals have been a recurring them at Euro 2016.
Seven of the opening 12 fixtures saw nets bulge after the 75th minute.