The Germans have won three from three so far while the Swedes are also undefeated, recording one win and two draws from their group matches, setting up a tantalising must-win clash.
Jurgen Klinsmann, German coach, showed all the bravado of a man managing the host nation at a World Cup Finals, displaying no signs of pressure whatsoever.
“I’m convinced we will win this game. I can’t imagine anything else,” Klinsmann said at a press conference on Friday.
“We can not go out. We are a footballing nation and to be eliminated in the last 16 would be a catastrophe.”
“I have participated in six tournaments as a player and know that in a crazy football nation, such as Germany or England, you can not go out in the last 16 or quarter-finals. It is not that simple,” the German coach added.
The German squad don’t have any players out through suspension, and only have one injury worry with central defender Christoph Metzelder still nursing a twisted knee, the Borussia Dortmund player due to undergo a fitness test before the match.
The Swedes, who are ranked three places higher than the Germans on the FIFA World Rankings (16th and 19th respectively), are also untroubled by suspensions, however key forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still recovering from a groin strain picked up in the match against Paraguay.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to
Juventus striker Ibrahimovic has been out of goal scoring form lately, but coach Lars Lagerback would rather have him available to play than on the injured list, and midweek training sessions seemed to suggest the big forward will take part in Saturday’s match.
The Swede manager chose to get in on the underdog tag early, attempting to take the pressure off his side and put it heavily on the opposition.
“We are the underdogs. Germany has a great tradition at major competitions and they have a lot of variety in their game,” Lagerback said.
“But we will try to defend well and if we do I think we can handle their attacking players. We have to play our game and stick to the basics if we are to succeed.”
Set to surprise
The side from Scandinavia scored a stoppage time win against Paraguay and snatched a late draw against England, showing that they can play for 90 minutes or more, with Henrik Larsson, scorer of the equaliser against England, highlighting the fact.
Sweden’s Rami Shaaban (L) and
“We have a great spirit in this team and never give up – that makes us very strong,” said Larsson.
“Germany are favourites with home advantage but we will try to pull off a surprise,” the striker added.
Freddie Ljungberg, Sweden’s goal scoring hero from the Paraguay victory, will be looking to put one over his Arsenal team mate Jens Lehmann who is the goal keeper for the Gunners and for Germany.
Lehmann, who recently took over from Oliver Kahn as the German number 1, knows all too well about the crafty Swedish midfielder’s desire to score in the big match, but stressed that their rivalry was all above board.
“I do not have a bet with Freddie,” said Lehmann. “I know he wants to score against me but I will do everything to stop that.”
Meanwhile, captain of the host nation Michael Ballack was also quietly confident but stressed that every mistake from now on would be punished as the business end of the tournament begins.
Michael Ballack knows that every
“We know that at this stage every error means we could go out,” he said.
“We have been good so far but we need to put that behind us. Sweden are our first real difficult opponents.” Ballack said, rubbing salt into the wounds of the Costa Ricans, Poles and Ecuadorians.
The Germans and the Swedes have met only once since the reunification of the central European country, but that was 14 years ago with the Germans winning 3-2.
Sweden were eliminated at this very stage at the last World Cup Finals via a golden goal against Senegal, while Germany went all the way to the final only to be beaten by Brazil.
After two weeks of group matches where there has been plenty of drama but few surprises, the knock-out phase reignites the tournament as every game is sudden death.
It should be a great match in Munich, and a fitting way to kick-off the elimination stage of the Finals.
For the confident hosts it is unthinkable and unacceptable to be knocked out this early, especially in front of their own fans, but the stubborn Swedes who have had plenty of late luck will be looking to add pressure of their own in Munich on Saturday.