Swede coach counts on experience
Sweden's hugely experienced side should prove to have a huge advantage over their younger Russian opponents in the crucial UEFA EURO 2008 Group D match here on Wednesday according to Swedish coach Lars Lagerback.
The 59-year-old's side need just a draw to progress to the last eight where they would meet Holland in a quarter-final in Basel, Switzerland, on Saturday while the Russians have to win.
And despite having an injury doubt over star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic - who is still struggling with his left knee that has restricted him to playing only a limited amount of time in thier first two matches (a 2-0 win over Greece and a 2-1 defeat by Spain) - Lagerback is confident with the mass of experience they can get the point they require.
"That is where experience can be important," said Lagerback referring to a side capable of getting the draw.
"When you are playing in the 90th minute and you mustn't concede a goal it is important to have players that aren't going to do something crazy and just shut down the match.
"But that is no guarantee. It can work, but it can also fail. Look at the Czechs against the Turks. They tried to close it down at 2-1, but conceded two goals in the last three minutes and went home," added Lagerback, whose own side conceded a late goal to Spain.
Lagerback, who has been in sole charge since 2004 having been joint coach with Tommy Soderbergh prior to that, admitted the extra experience of the Swedes with the likes of Freddi Ljungberg, Henrik Larsson and Olof Mellberg, could be the decisive factor over a relatively young Russian outfit.
"That could be the determining factor," said Lagerback. "When you are a relatively green unit, you can feel the pressure more, even if this tends to dissipate during a match. I am happy to have experienced players at my disposal. It is obviously a positive thing.
"But it is difficult to say who will be favourites," he admitted. "One is talking about two different type of teams, but of a similar level. In my opinion it is 50-50 for the outcome. I hope that our qualities prevail but I do not see us as being clear favourites.
"Russia are a strong team, especially offensively. We should focus on stopping them in that area."
Lagerback, who is not noted for his extravagant tactics preferring a more conservative approach, refused to admit that the fact his side had had the least amount of shots at goal reflected the accusations of his team being essentially boring and negative.
"It is not because of us, but more the type of matches we have played," said Lagerback. "Against Greece, we found a packed defence, very compact, strong in defense and patient. Then we played one of the best teams in the world (Spain).
"I think that partly explains it. But it is true that to become a world class team, we have to improve, to go up another level."