Swedes bid to break goal drought against Paraguay

Sweden will bid to salvage their World Cup campaign on Thursday evening against Paraguay in front of a massive contingent of blue-yellow supporters who have made the trip to Berlin.

According to German police, up to 45,000 Swedish fans are expected to pack into the Olympic Stadium to watch the match which Lars Lagerbäck’s team must win if they are to have a realistic chance of progressing to the knockout stage of the tournament.

After Sweden’s impotent performance against Trinidad and Tobago, which ended 0-0 despite T and T having a man sent off at the beginning of the second half, there has been massive pressure on the squad.

While the Swedish officials with the team have done their best to protect the players from the media, a reported bust-up between skipper Olof Mellberg and midfielder Fredrik Ljungberg suggests that the famous Swedish cool is being tested to the limits.

Ljungberg was said to be furious that the big full-back repeatedly hoofed the ball out from defence, rather than playing it through the midfield.

The Arsenal star will hope to be at the centre of a more creative approach to the Paraguay game, but the whole of Sweden will be satisfied with goals, however they materialise.

Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has more or less promised a goalfest – if the deadlock can be broken.

“Once we score that first goal, the whole team will loosen up and others will follow,” he told reporters.

“That’s what would have happened against Trinidad, but the first one wouldn’t go in.

But Paraguay are just as desperate to get on the World Cup scoresheet. Striker Roque Santa Cruz said on Wednesday he is “hungry for a goal” as he limbered up before his team’s second group B game.

“Every footballer dreams of scoring a goal at the World Cup and I’ll do all I can to do so. If I can get one against Sweden that would be so important as it would take the team towards qualification” for the second phase,” the Bayern Munich star, his career blighted so often by injury, said.

He scored once on the way to the last 16 in 2002 and says the South Americans can manage the feat again.

“We’re not worried about going up against Sweden,” he insisted, despite the fact the pressure is on after the opening day loss to England.

“What we want to be is more aggressive up front and concentrate better.”

Colleague Nelson Haedo said the Swedes could cave into pressure “as they really have to redeem themselves after the draw with Trinidad and Tobago complicated things for them,” he said.

Keeper Aldo Bobadilla, in for the injured Justo Villar, meanwhile concentrated on the need to shut out Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Swedish attack.

“Our mission will be to hold firm in defence and use the space that opens up when they are attacking. And we also have to take the game to them.”

Sweden’s first choice keeper, Andreas Isaksson, is expected to return to the team after a ball in the face knocked him out and lingering concussion ruled him out of the opening match.