Sweden coach Roland Larsson is looking for his team to recapture the form they showed in their opening game when they face Russia in Tuesday's 2013 UEFA European Under-17 Championship semi-final.
First-timers at a finals tournament in this category, Sweden made a positive start to Group A with a 1-0 victory against Switzerland. The draws against Austria and Slovakia which followed, however, were the consequence of less impressive displays. A further below-par performance against Russia would seriously compromise their dreams of reaching the 17 May final, but Larsson told UEFA.com he feels his squad can raise their game again.
"They're a very good team, with a lot of power, but I think we can play well against them," he explained. "When we play our best, like in the first game, then we're good. If we play like that, it takes a really good team to beat us, and if they do that, then you have to hold your hands up and say 'congratulations'."
The return from suspension of opening-game match winner Gustav Engvall means Sweden are at full strength for the all-or-nothing encounter at the Štadión MŠK Žilina. The knife-edge nature of the game is unlikely to faze the Group A runners-up, who held their nerve to score an added-time equaliser against Hungary in their final elite round game and secure their finals berth.
"I think we have good power in the team," defender Linus Wahlqvist told UEFA.com. "We fight 100% all the time. We score a lot of goals, but we're compact. Other teams don't get many opportunities to score against us. We have great team spirit.
"We're not done with this competition. We want to win. It's a good step for Swedish football to get to the semi-finals, but as a team we always want to win. We want to go to the final."
Having topped Group B, Russia too will believe they can progress to an U17 final for the first time since they were crowned continental champions on their debut in 2006. Coach Dmitri Khomukha is confident he has the formula which will afford the 2013 squad the opportunity to emulate their predecessors.
"The key to success is the same as it was in all our previous games – full commitment," he told UEFA.com. "The main thing is not to abandon our way of playing, and use our strengths. Sweden have a typical Scandinavian style of play, all their guys have great physiques. They are tall and powerful, and their game is based on that."
Defender Dzhamaldin Khodzhaniyazov has recovered from a minor shoulder injury sustained in the 1-1 closing group game with Italy, while Khomukha can also call on forward Ramil Sheydaev, drafted into the squad to replace concussion victim Maksim Mayrovich.
The FC Zenit St Petersburg youth academy player, who scored twice in six matches en route to the finals, was not named in the initial squad after being handed a three-game ban for a red card in his country's final elite round game against Portugal.
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