Sweden hosts Portugal at the Friends Arena in Solna, just north of Stockholm on Tuesday, November 19 in the second leg of their two-game home and home World Cup qualifying playoff series. Portugal took the first leg at home in Lisbon on November 15 when Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late goal with a diving header to seal the victory. Sweden made the huge mistake of playing for a draw in the first match and inevitably allowed Portugal to attack at will and then paid for it big time when Ronaldo scored.
If this series happens to be level after the match in Sweden there will be a 30-minute extra time session and if it’s still level we’ll be treated to a penalty shootout. Sweden midfielder Sebastian Larsson feels the appointment of English referee Howard Webb should benefit his side as they’ll be able to play a more physical game without giving up free kick after free kick.
However, for Sweden to succeed in this match and to make it to the World Cup next June in Brazil, they’re going to need to put the ball in the net. They didn’t come close to achieving that goal in the first match and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a huge disappointment as he was virtually invisible for the entire 90 minutes. He managed just one shot along with 30 passes. The Paris Saint Germain forward needs better service and Sweden may be tempted to start Anders Svensson, a 37-year-old midfielder, to help feed him the ball.
Sweden also need to put the pressure on Portugal when the visitors have the ball in their own end. By hanging back Sweden allows the Portuguese to advance the ball up the pitch and set up scoring chances far too easily. If Sweden does have any type of advantage going into this game other than having a stadium full of fans behind them, it could be the cool weather and the questionable state of the pitch.
Portugal can reach Brazil without scoring a goal in Sweden, so while marking Ronaldo is always recommended, the Swedish side can’t be too preoccupied with him and with defending in general. It’s simple arithmetic here. If Sweden don’t score then they’ll be watching the World Cup on television next summer. If Sweden should happen to score first then they may want to think about tightening up.
Sweden had the ball just 32 per cent of the time in the first match and that means they simply allowed the Portuguese to dictate the pace of the game while they tried to prevent goals against. It didn’t work so they need to take the initiative this time around. This series is far from over as far as Sweden is concerned, but they need to backup their words with a far better performance than they produced in Lisbon. Ibrahimovic is bound to have a better game and in the end he could just be the difference between success and failure.
Sweden and Portugal have met each other a total of 16 times in the past with Sweden winning six times, losing four and drawing the other six. However, they haven’t beaten them since 1984. Sportsbook williamhill.com has the current odds of a Sweden win at 17/10 with a Portugal victory also at 17/10 and a 90-minute draw at 21/10