Sweden face do-or-die battle with US

AFP - [email protected]

Sweden take on women's football giants the United States in Chengdu on Friday in a crucial showdown that neither side can afford to lose if they wish to stay alive in the World Cup.


Both have predicted a ferocious battle for the three points up for grabs, while Asian number ones North Korea take on African champions Nigeria in another crunch match.

With all four teams in Group B, considered the toughest of the tournament, locked on one point each, the encounters could be critical to deciding who secures a place in the quarter-finals.

Sweden, the world number threes, got their World Cup campaign off to a shaky start when they drew 1-1 with Nigeria, considered the weakest of the four Group B teams.

But coach Thomas Dennerby said Sweden has a history of improving as the tournament progresses.

And he said the Scandinavians had a strong chance against the US, given the close scorelines of their last two encounters, when the Americans snuck home 3-2 on both occasions.

"We are going to fight all the way," he said.

The Americans, the world number ones who have not been beaten in more than two years, were severely tested against North Korea in their first match, before escaping with an equalizer for a 2-2 draw.

"The destiny is in the hands of each team," said US sensation Abby Wambach.

"Right now the game against Sweden is going to really tell, I think, who goes on to the second round."

While the North Koreans remain a "mystery" for most teams here, the Americans are familiar with Sweden, runners-up at the 2003 World Cup to reigning champions Germany.

"I feel we match up very well with Sweden, we play very similar systems," said Wambach, sporting 11 stitches in her head from a mid-air collision in the Korea match.

"I think it's just going to be a great fought battle and it's going to be a great game to watch."

Veteran US defender Christie Rampone said although the Americans, gunning for their third World Cup title, were familiar with the Swedes and their style of play, they could not afford to relax.

"We've got to go after them," she said.

Only two teams from each group qualify for the quarter-finals with the last

group games played next Tuesday when North Korea take on Sweden in Tianjin and

the US face Nigeria in Shanghai.

The 16-team tournament is staged in five cities -- Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Tianjin -- with the final on September 30th in Shanghai.


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