Larsson confident before Germany tie

Will Sweden go from A to Z in their bid to beat hosts Germany in Saturday's last 16 World Cup clash? Will Marcus Allbäck be replaced by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Swedish forward line?

That’s the question on every Swedish football fan’s lips but coach Lars Lagerbäck is keeping quiet on the subject until he knows whether Ibrahimovic can recover from a groin injury in time for the game.

Even if he does, his place in the team is by no means guaranteed. Allbäck scored Sweden’s first equalizer against England on Wednesday and with him supporting Henrik Larsson the team seemed to have more verve than when Ibrahimovic has started.

Irrespective of the Swedish strike force, with home support and a perfect three wins, host nation Germany will start the match as favourites to progress to the quarter finals.

Germany came into the tournament low on confidence after some indifferent results but manager Jürgen Klinsmann has revived faith in the national team and their demanding public now expects them to swat aside Sweden and reach the quarter-finals.

The hosts could possibly then face mighty Argentina but Klinsmann insists his team have to take one step at a time.

“I am not even thinking of any possible quarter-final,” said Klinsmann.

“It will be very difficult against Sweden on Saturday. But now there are no easy games. We respect Sweden very much and have monitored all three of their games.”

Sweden are certainly Germany’s most difficult test so far and showed glimpses of their potential in their final 2-2 group draw with England.

Lars Lagerbäck’s team finished Group B runners-up behind England but had the 1966 world champions on the back foot for most of the second half as they twice came from behind to pin back Sven-Göran Eriksson’s team.

Barcelona’s Champions League winner Henrik Larsson, who scored Sweden’s last-minute equaliser against England, admits his side are the outsiders but warned Germany to watch out for their set-pieces.

“Germany are favourites. They have home advantage and a great coach in Jürgen Klinsmann but we hope to pull off a surprise,” Larsson said.

“We showed against England how dangerous we can be from set-pieces. The two goals give us a lot of confidence.”

Three-time World Cup winners Germany are full of confidence after a 3-0 demolition of Ecuador in Berlin on Tuesday completed a perfect three group wins.

Polish-born striker Miroslav Klose scored twice in that match to move to the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts with four and he is Germany’s danger man.

“Miro is so hungry for success. Some players seem to thrive at World Cups and he is certainly one of them,” admitted Klinsmann.

Klose now has nine World Cup goals in all and his next target is Klinsmann’s career haul of 11.

At his last outing in Munich, Klose scored a brace in the 4-2 opening win over Costa Rica on June 9 and both he and Germany will hope for a repeat performance.

The match is full of intriguing match-ups, none more so than German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann trying to shut out his Arsenal team-mate Freddie Ljungberg.

“We said before the tournament that this could happen,” explained Ljungberg.

“Jens Lehmann is my friend but now I have do him harm.”

Sweden crashed out at this stage at the 2002 World Cup with Senegal triumphing 2-1 on the golden goal rule and they will want to cure that pain four years on.

The Local/AFP