STOCKHOLM — Scandinavian teams Sweden and Denmark can not afford slip-ups against minnows tomorrow in their bid to make it to next year’s World Cup football finals in Brazil.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden host bottom side Faroe Islands in Solna on the heels of a 2-1 defeat in Austria on Friday which has considerably complicated their group C campaign.
Leader Germany seem out of reach with 16 points for the direct qualifying berth, but with a victory Sweden will draw level with Austria and Ireland on 11 points in a fight for second place, which brings a play-off spot.
Denmark are in a similar situation in group B where Italy are top on 14 points. They host Armenia and a victory will take them to nine points, tied with the Czech Republic and one point behind current second-place holders Bulgaria.
Denmark won a friendly 2-1 against Georgia in mid-week, while Sweden’s bid for full six points from two games ended with the defeat in Vienna which coach Erik Hamren named “a blow to the solar plexus” as he was not happy with his side’s attitude.
“The chance of winning the group (has) disappeared. Now it’s all down to securing second spot,” Hamren said.
“We will win, no doubt about it. There are no excuses,” he added, looking ahead at the game against the Faroes, who after a 3-0 defeat in Ireland remain last with zero points.
Galatasaray forward Johan Elmander, who scored the goal in Austria, and goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson are unavailable because they serve a one-game yellow-card suspension. The Danes have enjoyed a mixed campaign with only one win from five games, 3-0 at the Czech Republic. A 1-1 home draw with Bulgaria in their last qualifier didn’t help them and now full three points against Armenia are a must in Copenhagen.
“We should focus on our own matches, and stick to winning the rest of our matches,” coach Morten Olsen said, refusing to look at the other teams in the group.
Olsen is mulling whether he needs to find substitutes for key players, midfielder Niki Zimling and Wolfsburg defender Simon Kjaer, both struggling with groin injuries.
Second bottom Armenia are coming off a 1-0 home defeat against Malta, which marked only the second victory in 42 years of World Cup qualifying for the minnows.
Olsen spoke of “a real surprise” which “just shows that every match is difficult and it hinges on how you deal with them . . . We are not naive. We have seen Armenia many times. Armenia will play the kind of game they do best against us — with a lot of transitions.”
Belarus host Finland in the other game tomorrow in the lowlands of group I which is dominated by world and European champions Spain and France. Finland won their first meeting in Helsinki 1-0 on Friday.