Friends Arena, Solna
19 November, 19:45 BST
Sweden will host Portugal at the Friends Arena tomorrow in the all-important second leg of their World Cup Qualifier play-off fixture. Portugal took a slender lead at home in the first leg as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a later winner. Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were largely restricted and they would need to produce a much better performance in home to turn this around, but with just one goal in it, this tie is far from over.
Sweden have failed to win in their last two home fixtures against Portugal. The last time Portugal travelled to Sweden was in 2008 in another World Cup qualification campaign and the match ended without any goal. Portugal will be happy with a similar result this time around, but Paulo Bento has insisted that his side won’t go in with a defensive mind-set in this match.
Team News and tactics
Sweden have had a fairly satisfactory qualification campaign and have done what was expected of them – came second behind Germany in Group C. Like Portugal, they won six of their 10 qualification fixtures. But despite managing to score seven goals in their two games against the German side in the qualification stage, Sweden failed to show their attacking prowess against Portugal.
Erik Hamren doesn’t have any injury concern ahead of his game and has a fully fit squad to choose from. Andreas Isaksson suffered a knock in the first leg, but has recovered from it. He is unlikely to make any changes to the side he fielded against Portugal in the last game. But Hamren will surely need a change in his side’s attitude. Sweden failed to get their passing game going in the match. They mostly used long balls and Zlatan and Elmander were kept quiet by the defenders. The likes of Larsson and Kacaniklic needs to provide more service to the PSG striker.
Kim Kallstrom was also a big disappointment at the center of the park and failed to provide the creativity. Defensively Sweden managed to restrict Portugal for most of the game, although the home side did create a lot more chances than Erik Hamren’s side. Mikael Lustig did a reasonable job in restricting Ronaldo’s influence in the game and will look to repeat that performance at home. Sweden needs to score goals, but should be mindful about leaving too many gaps at the back as Nani and Ronaldo have the pace to exploit them.
Expected starting line-up (4-4-1-1): Isaksson (GK); Lustig, Antonsson, Nilsson, Olsson; Kacaniklic, Kallstrom, Elm, Larsson; Elmander; Ibrahimovic
Portugal endured a fairly disappointing qualification campaign as finished second behind Russia in Group F. Portugal were in a fairly easy group and were widely expected to win this and qualify comfortably for Brazil next year, but they left themselves in a mess after dropping points against the likes of Israel and Northern Ireland.
Portugal produced a better performance in the second half and scored the important goal, but Paulo Bento would know that his side should have scored more. One goal lead can be overturned very easily away from home. Moreover, Sweden are sure to show more endeavour in attack in this leg than what showed in the first leg.
The Portugal manager has insisted that his side won’t sit back with his lead, but it would be fair to say that the away side will be a bit sceptical about over committing in attack. Moreover, with Sweden pushing to score goals, Portugal will have opportunity to exploit them on the break. Joao Moutinho will again crucial at the center of the park. The 27-year-old produced a wonderful performance in the first leg alongside Raul Meireles.
Paulo Bento won’t make any changes to the side that was selected in the first leg. Pepe and Ronaldo skipped Saturday’s training session, but it was a precautionary decision to rest the duo. Helder Postiga had a fairly disappointing match and he will have to improve in this game as Portugal cannot solely depend on Ronaldo to deliver the goods.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Patricio (GK); Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Moutinho, Veloso, Meireles; Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
Players to watch out for: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden); Joao Moutinho (Portugal)
Prediction: Sweden 1-1 Portugal