Portugal: Paulo Bento (20-10-7)
Sweden: Erik Hamrén (30-6-11)
Sixteenth Meeting All-Time
Series History: Sweden six wins, Portugal three wins, six draws
Portugal is seeking to qualify for its fourth-consecutive World Cup and they should feel very confident going into this playoff series with Sweden. In their five home qualifying matches, Portugal won three and had two draws while scoring nine goals and only giving up two. The most astonishing statistic from these games was that they had 44 shots on goals along with 54 corner kicks.
Portugal’s attack is paced by Real Madrid midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United midfielder Nani and Valencia striker Helder Postiga; the three have combined for 84 international goals. Another thing that Portugal will have the advantage in is their overall international experience; the projected Starting XI has combined for 639 appearances for Portugal.
For Portugal to be successful in this series they will need keep their focus after goals are scored for either club. A team is the most vulnerable in the five minutes after scoring or giving up a goal and Portugal will need to keep cool. It will be important for Pepe and Bruno Alves to limit Zlatan Ibrahimović’s touches and space; Ibrahimović is one of those players who can make something out of nothing.
Portugal Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
João Pereira — Pepe — Bruno Alves — Fábio Coentrão
Raul Meireles — Miguel Veloso
Nani — João Moutinho — Cristiano Ronaldo
Sweden will be looking to return to the World Cup after missing the tournament in 2010. The come into this playoff series having won six of their last eight matches and the last two played on the road.
Sweden lives and dies through the success of Zlatan Ibrahimović who scored six of their 19 goals in qualifying. The Paris Saint-Germain striker is arguably the best player on this team and will need to play his best soccer to help Sweden qualify for Brazil.
One of the things to look for in this series for Sweden if the score is close late in the second leg is the desperation that could come into play for Sweden and their fans. Sweden has 10 players that are 30 years old or older including Ibrahimović (32), striker Johan Elmander (32), goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson (32) and central midfielder Anders Svensson (37). If Sweden are not able to qualify, it could be a while before we see them back in this position.
Sweden Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
Mikael Lustig — Per Nilsson — Mikael Antonsson — Martin Olsson
Rasmus Elm — Anders Svensson
Sebastian Larsson — Zlatan Ibrahimović — Alexander Kačaniklić
Portugal hosts Sweden in the first leg of their UEFA Qualifying Playoff at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon on Friday, Nov. 15 at 2:45 p.m. EST and can be seen online on ESPN3.
First Leg Prediction: Portugal 3, Sweden 1