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Ljungberg awaits culture clash

Sweden captain Fredrik Ljungberg predicts a clash of cultures when the Scandinavians play Russia in their final Group D meeting with a last-eight place at stake.

Fredrik Ljungberg during a training session in Innsbruck
Fredrik Ljungberg during a training session in Innsbruck ©Getty Images

Fredrik Ljungberg expects a culture clash when Sweden meet Russia in their final Group D game on Wednesday with a place in the UEFA EURO 2008™ quarter-finals at stake.

'Clash of styles'
Sweden's better goal difference means they need just a point from the match to reach the last eight while their attack-minded opponents must win, and Ljungberg believes it will be a game of contrasts at the Stadion Tivoli Neu. "It will be a clash of two styles, two different types of play," said the Sweden captain, whose side have the joint-lowest total of shots on target in the tournament. "I think we played well against Greece and Spain. There could be more speed in this game, but we need to stabilise things, and play our game."

Rearguard action
Ljungberg admitted he had to rein in his natural attacking instincts to play a more conservative role as Sweden frustrated Spain for much of their second group game before David Villa's last-gasp strike ruined a superb rearguard action. The West Ham United FC midfielder said his duties on Wednesday would depend on how Russia line up. "I think we'll have to wait and see about their starting XI, if they're going to be very offensive or not," said the 31-year-old. "It's going to be very open, the Russians will want to attack a lot, and that suits us. I think it will be an even match tomorrow, and hopefully we can attack more than we did in the Spain game."

Ibrahimović doubt
The scale of the Swedes' forward momentum will hinge largely on the fragile state of Zlatan Ibrahimović's left knee. The FC Internazionale Milano striker was forced off at half-time against Spain, and coach Lars Lagerbäck appeared far from convinced the team's most potent weapon would play in Innsbruck. Ljungberg acknowledged just how important Ibrahimović is to Swedish ambitions of reaching the knockout rounds for the fourth major tournament in a row. "He's a very, very good footballer, and we want all our best players on the field," Ljungberg said. "But he has a knee problem, so we have to take it one game at a time. He's tall and the Spanish couldn't handle him in the air. The Russians are probably better in the air, but he's a very important player for us."