Sweden avoids group of death
AFP/The Local · 2 Dec 2007, 13:47
Published: 02 Dec 2007 13:47 GMT+01:00
Sweden's Alpine adventure begins with a date with reigning champions Greece in Salzburg on June 10th.
Lars Lagerbäck's side will be based in Austria for all three group games. The second group match offers Sweden a chance to avenge a recent crushing defeat in the World Cup qualifying tournament as the Swedes take on Spain in Innsbruck on June 14th.
The final game of the group stage sees Sweden paired with Russia, again in Innsbruck, on June 18th.
Speaking to TV4, former goalkeeper Magnus Hedman said that the group offered "a golden opportunity for Sweden to advance.
Hedman's analysis might have been somewhat different had Jürgen Klinsmann picked out Sweden's name rather than Italy's to join the Netherlands, Romania and France in Group C, on paper the trickiest of the four groups.
Guus Hiddink insisted that Russia were confident of advancing into the knock-out stages.
"We should not expect any easy matches at the championship, but we will do everything to perform at our best and maybe to produce some surprises there," Russia coach Hiddink said.
"We are definitely not the favourites in our group. The Spaniards and the Swedes are, while the Greeks will do their best to secure their title."
Hiddink's assistant Igor Korneyev said they were happy to have avoided that included Italy, France, Romania and the Netherlands.
"We are in a strong group," he said. "The reigning European champions Greece top it, while Spain and Sweden also deservedly won the reputation of Europe's football leaders."
"However, the Group C is the strongest at the tournament," he added.
"Probably we can call it the death group. It will be very interesting to watch that group's matches."
Russian football chief Vitaly Mutko said: "The teams in our group are more or less even. I think that any two of our group's teams can advance into the next round. The draw in general was favourable for us. It could be much, much more difficult."
Stanislav Cherchesov, the head coach of Russia's nine-time champions Spartak Moscow, said he considered Sweden their main threat.
"Sweden are the most inconvenient opponents for us," he said. "They play a pragmatic style football, which is based on almost perfect physical conditions of all their players.
"Spain play more emotional football giving their rivals chances on the counter-attacks.
"Meanwhile we have positive balance with the defending champions Greece. Even four years ago in Portugal, when the Greeks won their title, Russia were the only team who beat them."