International Friendly: Sweden vs Denmark – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Scandinavian rivals Sweden and Denmark meet in a friendly for the second time this year Saturday as the Danes tune up for their first World Cup since 2010.
Ritzau Scanpix Denmark/Liselotte Sabroe via REUTERS
18:45 BST, Saturday 2nd June, Stockholm Olympic Stadium (Stockholm, Sweden)
The Rod-Hvide are in a top-tier international tournament for the first time since the 2012 European Championship and have not advanced out of the group stage of a tournament since reaching the quarterfinals of the 2004 Euros.
However, the Danes made their qualification more difficult than they needed to, only advancing to the tournament after beating the Republic of Ireland 5-1 on aggregate in a play-off.
Finding themselves in Group C of the World Cup behind favourites France along with Australia and Peru, Denmark have as good a chance of any of their rivals to advance out of group play at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
Sweden, who are in the World Cup for the first time since 2006, also secured a spot in the 32-country field via playoff as they edged Italy 1-0 over two legs.
The Blagult, who have already settled on their 23-man roster for the trip to Russia, are in Group F with defending champions Germany and both Mexico and South Korea. In facing South Korea in their opening match, they may need three points from that contest to have any real hopes of advancing.
Sweden grabbed a late 1-0 victory between the teams January 11 when Gustaf Nilsson was quickest to the rebound of a shot by Jordan Larsson that cannoned off the crossbar and hit Denmark keeper Frederik Ronnow before squirting to the left, where Nilsson struck from close range in second-half stoppage time.
Last Time Out
Romania 1-0 Sweden (International Friendly)
Sweden capped their March friendlies with a second loss in as many matches with a 1-0 road defeat in Romania.
Andersson overturned his entire starting XI three days after their 2-1 loss to Chile and Sweden failed to generate much in the way of productive attacking play, only putting two shots on target.
Striker John Guidetti failed to help his chances to unseat either Borg or Toivonen while keeper Karl-Johan Johnsson had little chance of stopping Dorin Rotariu’s goal just before the hour mark.
Denmark 0-0 Chile (International Friendly)
RITZAU SCANPIX/Anders Kjaerbye via REUTERS
The Rod-Hvide were held by their South American opponents in an entertaining match at Aalborg.
Age Hareide made five changes to the team that defeated ten-man Panama, allowing Denmark to create scoring chances on either side of halftime. After utilising a 4-3-3 versus Panama, the Danes used a 4-2-3-1 formation with Bendtner up front.
Keeper Kasper Schmeichel was forced into action early as he made a save by pushing a shot off the crossbar, and Eriksen put Andreas Cornelius through later in the first half, only for him to miss the target with an angled shot from eight yards.
The teams traded opportunities throughout the match, with Denmark coming closest when Lasse Schone’s free kick from 25 yards in the 76th minute thumped the left post and bounced harmlessly away.
The big news for Sweden is the expected return of first-choice keeper Robin Olsen who missed the past three months after suffering a shoulder injury with Danish club FC Copenhagen.
Victor Lindelof is trying to move on from a sub-par season with Manchester United in which he played just 17 league matches and 28 in all competitions, while midfielder Emil Forsberg will provide the pace and release valve for the Blagult as they look to soak up pressure.
While Hareide could revert to the 4-2-3-1 formation Denmark trotted out versus Panama with Jorgensen as the lone forward striker, it is likely that he will persist with the 4-3-3 that he preferred throughout qualification
These two friendlies will determine if Hareide can use Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen as a center back in tandem with Simon Kjaer. He had hoped to do that in the March friendlies, but Christensen suffered a back injury that scuppered those plans.
Key Battle: Albin Ekdal (Sweden) vs Christian Eriksen (Denmark)
Described by Janne Andersson as an ‘intelligent link-man’ and ‘one of my most important players’, Albin Ekdal will partner Sebastian Larsson in a midfield two in a 4-4-2, looking to screen the defence but also to carry the ball up the field, setting Sweden’s strikers off in their search for goal.
The 28-year-old, who plies his trade in Hamburg, will be aware of the age of his midfield partner and will be conscious of the fact that he cannot afford to push too far up the field.
A former Juventus player, Ekdal will be the key to shoring up the Swedish midfield. If he can’t get it right, then there could be something of a soft-centre to this side.
REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen
His opponent on Saturday is one of the best creative midfielders in the world and will make it his mission to expose any weaknesses that Ekdal displays.
Eriksen is reportedly close to finalising a contract extension with Tottenham Hotspur, despite rumored interest from both Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.
He has 21 goals and 77 caps for Denmark with 11 coming in the recently completed qualifying cycle, highlighted by his hat-trick in the 5-1 victory against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin in the second leg of their playoff, booking Sweden’s passage to Russia.
Will Bendtner make the final squad?
For the Swedish fans, there is concern that first-choice striker Nicklas Bendtner could miss the tournament after suffering a thigh injury while playing for Norwegian club Rosenborg last weekend.
Bendtner, who ranks seventh on the country’s all-time scoring list with 30 goals in 81 appearances, survived the first round of manager Age Hareide’s cuts as he trimmed the national roster from 35 to 27.
With Sweden’s first matchday coming up against Peru on June 16, time may be against the striker as Hareide ponders his final four omissions.
Do Sweden have enough attacking clout to make a difference?
While manager Janne Andersson turned down the late overtures of Sweden’s all-time leading scorer and 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the group he has assembled is long on experience as nine players have at least 30 caps.
The issue for Andersson will be where the goals come from since top forwards Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen only have 18 and 13 respectively at the international level.
There are also questions about the level of the teams that these goals have come against: Berg scored four of his eight goals in qualifying against Luxembourg, while Toivonen added three during in Sweden’s progression to the World Cup – two against Bulgaria and one against Luxembourg.
Prediction: Sweden 0-1 Denmark
As a collective, Sweden are arguably better than they were when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the star of the show. However, a team also need that certain something extra that makes a defining difference between a loss and a draw or a draw and a win.
It is currently difficult to see where that spark is for Sweden’s offense compared to Denmark, who will let Eriksen try to boss the middle of the park and pull the strings offensively.
Both teams have questions they need answered internally and this match will provide some of them without hopefully raising others.