Larsson denies Sweden are under pressure after slip-ups
‘I don’t think that we’re coming here with anything to prove’
Seb Larsson: “At this stage, it’s like a four game league. We’ve all got to play each other and we’ve all got to play Germany.” Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
If you think the Irish have regrets about the points lost because of the late goal they conceded at home to Austria’s David Alaba back in March then spare a thought for the Swedes.
They view their failure to beat Giovanni Trapattoni’s men four days earlier, their narrow defeat in June by Austria and even the fact that they had fallen so far behind to Germany that scoring four late goals against the group’s top seeds earned them no more than a point in Berlin as slip-ups that may yet cost them dearly.
Combined, the results have fueled criticism in Sweden and some pressure on coach Erik Hamren but sitting alongside his coach last night in the Aviva stadium Seb Larsson dismissed the idea that he and his team-mates have travelled to Dublin under something of a cloud.
“I don’t think that we’re coming here with anything to prove,” insists the Sunderland winger who knows more about the challenge that awaits the visitors this evening than most. “We set our target at the start of the campaign and that was to qualify for the World Cup . . . we still have that in our own hands so we’re happy even if Ireland and Austria can say the same things.
‘Four game league’
“At this stage,” he continues, “it’s like a four game league. We’ve all got to play each other and we’ve all got to play Germany. It doesn’t matter whether we play Kazakhstan first or somebody else does, we’ve all got to get as many points as we can and it’s likely to come down to the games against each other.
Larsson acknowledges that the draw between these two sides in Stockholm was a setback to Sweden’s hopes of progression but it is, he insists, scarcely a concern on the eve of a game against opponents who don’t win too many big games at home themselves.
‘Hard working team’
“Ireland are a very hard working team and there were clearly some things that we didn’t do well enough that night,” he says. “What matters now is how well we do things tomorrow night.”
How well they’re allowed to do will be crucial from the perspective of the Irish who, in turn, will hope that players like Larsson’s former Sunderland team-mate James McClean can pose enough of a threat to justify his selection.
The decision to play the Northerner ahead of the likes of Simon Cox and Anthony Pilkington was the interesting aspect of the team Trapattoni named yesterday but Larsson appreciates the attraction.
“I don’t think it’s such a surprise because he can offer something different and he played well in Stockholm,” he said.