Russia vs Sweden preview

In a match which will determine who will take the 8th and the last quarterfinal spot, Guus Hiddink’s young Russian side take on Lagerback’s Sweden in Innsbruck. While Russia do not have a good record of making it past the group stage in their last few tournaments, Guus Hiddink can boast to taking every team that he has coached past the group stage, and that might work in Russia’s favour.

Sweden started off with a 2-0 win over holders Greece, but were denied by a late goal by David Villa as Spain beat them 2-1. A draw will suffice for the Swedes, just as it did four years ago in Portugal. Sweden have a better goal difference than Russia, and should the match end in a draw, Sweden will progress. The biggest injury concern for Sweden is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The giant Inter Milan striker has scored two out of Sweden’s three goals in the tournament, but his knee remains a cause for concern. He lasted only forty five minutes against Spain, and his removal was one of the turning points of the game. Lagerback may choose to use him as a second half substitute, and start with Markus Rosenborg alongside Henrik Larsson. Christian Wilhelmsson is definitely out of this game, and Johan Elmander takes his place. Niclas Alexandersson is sweating over his fitness, and should he not be ready, Freddie Stoor will start at right back. Anders Svensson is on a yellow card, and stands to miss a possible quarterfinal against the Netherlands should he get booked in this game.

Russia are the youngest team at Euro 2008. They have shown great pace, and look threatening going forward. Andrei Arshavin is back for the Russians after missing the first two games due to suspension. The Zenit St. Petersburg playmaker started in all of Russia’s qualification games, but his lack of match fitness may force Hiddink to use him as an impact player. Arshavin is an important cog in the Russian wheel- the very fact that he was bound to miss two games and was selected in a team that was not expected to make it past the group stages is a sign of his importance. Indeed, had Arshavin been there against Greece, the 1-0 scoreline that Russia won by could so easily have read 4-0 or 5-0. Roman Pavyluchenko was good against Greece, but the inability to finish off great moves remains a sore point. Dmitry Torbinsky and Ivan Saenko are on one yellow card.

The last meeting between these two teams was a friendly in 2002, which ended in a 1-1 draw. To look at the last competitive game played between these two, you have to go even further back-to 1994, when Sweden won 3-1. Sweden are experienced, but Zlatan’s absence could hit them badly. Russia to edge this 2-1, with goals from Semshov, Arshavin and H.Larsson.

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