STOCKHOLM - Injury-hit Sweden face a
tricky Euro 2012 qualifier in Moldova on Friday without striker
Zlatan Ibrahimovic as they seek to steal a march on second place
from Group E rivals Hungary who play on Tuesday.
"We've played some matches without Zlatan before, and now
we'll have to do it again," Sweden manager Erik Hamren said on
Wednesday with Ibrahimovic ruled out by an ankle injury.
"I wanted him to travel with us in his role as captain and
that was no problem, but then I decided after talking to the
medical team that two long flights wouldn't be the best thing
for his foot, so he's staying at home."
The Swedes could afford the luxury of a missed Ibrahimovic
penalty when they beat Moldova 2-1 in Stockholm in March but the
AC Milan striker will be sorely missed himself in Chisinau.
Also absent are Hamburg striker Markus Berg, who is having
hip surgery following a period on loan at PSV Eindhoven, and AZ
Alkmaar's Rasmus Elm, who is having an operation on his foot.
World Cup finalists Netherlands are the runaway group
leaders, having won all six matches. Sweden and Hungary have
nine points, with the latter having played two games more.
Having been completely outplayed by the Dutch in a 4-1
defeat in Rotterdam, the best the Swedes can really hope for is
second place but to achieve it they need a win in Moldova.
Sweden followed up the Netherlands defeat with a shaky 2-1
victory over Moldova on a chilly night, courtesy of goals from
Mikael Lustig and Sebastian Larsson.
Despite defending deep, Moldova created plenty of chances in
Stockholm, with Alexandru Suvorov scoring the goal of the game
with a cracking volley from the edge of the area in added-time.
The Moldovans have shown they are no pushovers at home
either, with the Netherlands only just scraping a 1-0 victory in
October despite having the lion's share of possession.
Sweden are slight favourites but it is a make-or-break game
for Moldova who need a shock win to leave both teams and Hungary
on nine points, although the Swedes will have a game in hand.
With Hungary due to visit San Marino on Tuesday, when Sweden
have another difficult match against regional rivals Finland in
Stockholm, Hamren's side have little margin for error.
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