International Friendly: Sweden vs Chile – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Chile will be look to move forward from failing to qualify for the World Cup in their clash against the much-improved Sweden.
17:00 GMT, Saturday 24th March, Friends Arena (Stockholm, Sweden)
One of the more interesting ties from the international break, as Sweden welcome one of the best teams who didn’t qualify for the World Cup, Chile.
Despite holding the quality of Arturo Vidal, Chile, the double defending Copa America champions and Confederations Cup runners-up, missed out on a return to Russia after a poor qualifying campaign.
La Roja would have made the playoffs if they had picked up a point against the already qualified Brazil in the final round of fixtures. A 3-0 defeat in Sao Paulo coupled with a draw for Peru at home to Colombia meant Chile missed out on a third successive World Cup.
As for Sweden, they haven’t graced the World Cup finals since 2006, but some backs-to-the wall defending against Italy took them to Russia. With a generous group, the round of 16 will be regarded as a minimum target for the Scandinavians this summer.
Last time out
Italy 0-0 Sweden (World Cup qualification playoff second leg)
A famous night for Swedish football in Milan as they kept their 1-0 aggregate advantage from Stockholm intact to qualify for the World Cup.
It wasn’t pretty for Sweden, posing little attacking threat of their own, but they got the job done. Despite a couple of useful saves from Robin Olsen, Italy never looked like scoring, lacking conviction against the deep Swedish defence.
Brazil 3-0 Chile (World Cup qualifier)
Heartbreak for Chile, as CONMEBOL qualification table toppers Brazil turned on the style, denying the visitors of World Cup qualification.
The Chileans never troubled Ederson in the Brazil goal, and although the score was 0-0 at the break, in the second half things fell apart.
A long-range free-kick from Dani Alves was not dealt with as Paulinho tapped in the rebound.
Chile now had to press for a goal, allowing Neymar to get in behind, and square the ball for Gabriel Jesus to tap home.
Despite being two goals down, Chile brought Claudio Bravo up for a corner in stoppage time. Brazil swiftly went up the other end and Jesus walked the ball into the vacant goal to round off the result.
A lack of creativity cost Chile as they never made their opponents work hard in defence. He may have won the Copa America just a year earlier, but manager Juan Antonio Pizzi resigned in order for the nation to have a fresh start.
Karl-Johan Johnsson; Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson; Viktor Claesson, Sebastian Larsson, Gustav Svensson, Emil Forsberg; Marcus Berg, Ola Toivonen
Sweden have a clean bill of health heading into the tie against Chile, but the question is whether their best ever player, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, will be seen back in the yellow shirt this summer.
The 36-year-old retired from the international scene in 2016, but a World Cup will no doubt tempt the striker. His nasty knee injury will likely dictate whether or not he makes it to Russia.
Brayan Cortes; Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel, Enzo Roco, Miiko Albornoz; Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz, Pablo Hernandez; Martin Rodriguez; Eduardo Vargas, Nicolas Castillo
With a new manager, Reinaldo Rueda, it’s a lottery as to who could be selected to start against Sweden.
Claudio Bravo declined an international call-up after a disagreement over using his own goalkeeping coach, with Alexis Sanchez also threatening to miss the friendlies against Sweden and Denmark.
14 players who were in the squad against Brazil back in October will not be seen in Sweden.
Key battle: Victor Lindelof (Sweden) vs Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
Alexis Sanchez’s struggle for form since arriving at Manchester United meant he considered missing out on the international fixtures to get himself firing again. He had a change of heart, but there are no guarantees he will start in Stockholm.
The attacker will no doubt play some part in the tie, and he is likely to come up against his United teammate Victor Lindelof. The 23-year-old centre back hasn’t had the best start to life in Manchester either, struggling with both form and fitness this season.
With both players lacking confidence, whoever comes out on top can take momentum with them for the rest of the season.
A bolder Sweden?
Sweden defended brilliantly in their two ties against Italy, but they will need to produce a greater attacking threat at the World Cup. This could come in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but as things stand, he will not be in Russia.
Sweden are in a group with South Korea, Germany and Mexico, and they should be eying to win two of those games. They have the talent of Ola Toivonen and Marcus Berg up front, and the creativity of Sebastian Larsson and Emil Forsberg in midfield; it’s about time we see it.
Chile’s new start
A new manager provides a blank canvas for all players as Chile begin their four-year cycle to Qatar 2022. They are also two years away from defending their Copa America title, and with Gary Medel, Jean Beausejour, Arturo Vidal and Pablo Hernandez all over the age of 30, gaps in the starting 11 could open up.
The match in Sweden, against a side heading to the World Cup, is a chance for the fringe players to show their worth and force their way into the side for the competitive fixtures.
Emotion for Albornoz
You may not have heard of Chile left back Miiko Albornoz, but it will no doubt be a big night for the player capped just eight times by his country. With regular left back Jean Beausejour now 33, coach Rueda should look at Hannover defender Albornoz, who returns to the city of his birth in Stockholm.
The 27-year-old has a Chilean father and Finnish mother, but grew up in Sweden, playing for Brommapojkarna and then Malmo. You can imagine that this fixture will mean more to Albornoz than any other player on Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: Sweden 1-1 Chile
Two useful teams, but Chile have an edge. If this game was on South American soil, you would back a Chile victory, but playing away and under a new manager, a draw looks like the most likely outcome.
How will Sweden fare at the World Cup? Let us know in the comments section below.