Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Sweden's greatest asset on Tuesday against Germany. If he has a great game, and the Swedes' defense holds, they have the opportunity to give Germany their first lost in World Cup qualifiers.
"It will be a tough job against an opponent who is organized, tactically clever and has an outstanding striker in Ibrahimovic. They are our toughest rival in our group," said German national team captain Philipp Lahm.
Sweden have Ibrahimovic to thank for their very narrow win over Faroe Islands in another Group C qualifier. The north Atlantic minnows had led until midway through the second half. Then in the last 15 minutes of the game, Ibrahimovic rallied and put Sweden ahead, allowing for a 2-1 win for Sweden.
"He's a dangerous player, who can decide games all on his own and can often find the solution in very difficult situations," said German national coach Joachim Löw.
Ibrahimovic will be tasked with steering the offense for Germany's guests from Scandinavia. The Germans both respect and recognize the central role he plays for Sweden.
"He is the complete striker, the complete package. If we allow few chances at the back then we will win,” said Löw
Historical edge: Germany
Germany and Sweden are the Group C favorites to advance to the finals of the 2014 World Cup.
The two teams have only met five times in World Cup qualifying in the past, starting in 1937 and most recently in 2006. The Germans have the upper hand, winning three times and drawing twice.
Sweden have qualified for the last three World Cups, but ended up dropping to last place in 2002 and 2006 once the tournament actually started.
Currently, Germany has firmly seized second place in FIFA's world rankings. Sweden have managed 21st place.
Sweden not to be underestimated
After a 6-1 drubbing of Ireland in Dublin last week, Germany are riding high. However, despite the ego-stroking win against Ireland, Löw said the Swedes are not to be underestimated.
"Sweden play different football than Ireland. Sweden are capable of playing a good passing game. So there will be a different game,” he said.
Germany have won all of their qualifying matches so far. With wins over the Faroe Islands, Austria and the Ireland, they are at the top of Group C with twelve points.
Sweden are undefeated in three matches but trail Germany in second place with six points from two wins. They are so far the only clear viable contender capable of taking a jab at top-seed Germany.
"They (Sweden) are a dangerous opponent, perhaps the strongest in the group, but we want to take three more points," said German team captain Philipp Lahm.
A win for the Swedes would shake up the Group C dynamic. If not, a German victory would keep them on track to secure their place on top of Group C and an automatic spot at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
cg/mz (AP, AFP)