The stakes could hardly be higher for Sweden as they gear up to host the Netherlands with victory guaranteed to bring them an automatic berth at UEFA EURO 2012 as best runners-up. A point could also suffice depending on results elsewhere, but nobody in Erik Hamrén's squad is thinking conservatively. "We can't rely on a draw; we're going for the win," said right-back Mikael Lustig.
Heading into their last two Group E assignments, Sweden knew that their qualification destiny lay firmly in their own hands. Six points against Finland and the Netherlands would book them a ticket to Poland and Ukraine, and they took the first three on a wet and windy Friday night in Helsinki. A combination of wayward finishing and fine goalkeeping from Andreas Isaksson kept Finland out until Joona Toivio's 73rd-minute effort, by which time Sebastian Larsson and Martin Olsson had made sure to seize their chances to set up a 2-1 win.
That secured Hamrén's side a play-off spot at the very least, but they remain intent on claiming an automatic place at Råsundastadion on Tuesday. While a stalemate could still prove sufficient if results go their way in the other sections, Sweden will set out determined to defeat the 2010 FIFA World Cup finalists, who have won all nine of their qualifiers so far. "We have the chance of reaching the EURO, and that's what we want," explained Lustig. "We can't rely on a draw; we're going for the win."
Sweden nonetheless suffered a heavy 4-1 defeat when they last met the Oranje in Amsterdam last October, and they will have to reverse that result without key striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, who picked up a suspension with a yellow card against Finland. "Without Zlatan, we'll be forced to play a bit differently, but our basic game plan against the Netherlands remains the same," explained Hamrén, before adding: "I would have loved for Zlatan to be with us on Tuesday."
The AC Milan forward's absence is a definite blow, but the Netherlands will also be without some of their biggest names, with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder two notable absentees. "They've got an incredible amount of good players," commented midfielder Larsson. "Sneijder is gone and Zlatan is gone. It all evens out – that's how it works with qualifiers."
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