Sweden’s preparations may have been hit by illness and injury but team captain Andreas Granqvist still believes that his side can score a first competitive win over Germany since 1958 to send the defending champions home early from the World Cup.
While fans back home celebrated the traditional Swedish holiday of Midsummer’s Eve with pickled herring and snaps on Friday, some members of their national team are struggling to be fit to face the Germans in their Group F clash in Sochi.
Defenders Pontus Jansson and Filip Helander and midfielder Marcus Rohden all missed the final training session due to a stomach bug, and they will travel to Sochi on Saturday.
Striker Isaac Kiese Thelin also missed the session as he is carrying a knock that may limit his participation against Germany.
None of the four were expected to start the game, which took on much more importance after the first round of group matches where the Swedes won and Germany suffered a shock defeat by Mexico.
“It’s fantastic to be here for the second group match and Germany, who many saw as big favourites, have lost to Mexico in their first match,” Granqvist told reporters.
“That we could knock out Germany in the second match and they wouldn’t get out of the group, there’s not many that would have believed that.”
To do that, the Swedes will need to be on their “personal best” form, coach Janne Andersson said, noting that they had done so previously to beat France at home in qualifying and to overcome Italy in a two-legged playoff.
“It’s these moments you live for, you’ve worked your whole career for. I wouldn’t say I’ll enjoy it, but it’s going to be fun and we hope to get a good result,” Andersson said.
The 1-0 aggregate playoff victory over Italy, where the Swedes defended deeply and hit the Italians on the counter, may well provide the template for Saturday’s match.
And though a draw would be a great result for the Swedes, they could book their spot in the knockout stages with a win over the Germans, depending on the result of the game between group rivals Mexico and South Korea earlier in the day.
“It’s great to have a chance to affect the result of a World Cup in this kind of game. Whether or not we put Germany out is maybe not so important, but to have the chance to progress in our second game is fantastic,” he added.