Sweden cannot rely on Ibrahimovic alone, says coach

Thu Nov 14, 2013 4:53pm EST
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By Daniel Alvarenga

LISBON (Reuters) - Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic can be the match-winner in their World Cup playoff against Portugal if his team mates also rise to the challenge, coach Erik Hamren said on Thursday.

He told a news conference on the eve of the first leg that it was hard to escape talking about Ibrahimovic and Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of their mouth-watering duel.

"It's a fight between them of course, two world class players, but we need the team to be good," a relaxed Hamren told reporters at the Luz stadium, which is a 65,500 sell-out.

"If we can use Zlatan, we need to be good as a team because he needs that support. But if we are playing well, if we are good as a team, then he can be the match-winner."

Hamren said Portugal are favorites but added that Sweden, who will host the second leg in Solna on Tuesday, would put in the sort of top performance that earned them a playoff spot by finishing second in Group C behind runaway leaders Germany.

"We have been good in those important games towards the end of qualification. They (Portugal) are big favorites but we have belief in what we're doing. I have a good feeling," he said.


Portugal coach Paulo Bento said Ronaldo comes into the match at "a great moment" with the Real Madrid forward, like Paris St Germain's Ibrahimovic, having scored a hat-trick at the weekend.   Continued...

Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic controls the ball during a training session in Lisbon November 14, 2013. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante