Denmark may have failed to end a disappointing run of results at Friends Arena in Solna, but the goal scored by Nicolai Jorgensen definitely kept their qualifying hopes alive. Sweden are still in front after a 2-1 win on Saturday, but they will have to work hard to ensure they are the team to qualify for the Euro 2016 finals.
Long-serving coach Morten Olsen had a tough task of improving the players’ spirits ahead of the play-offs with his team having failed to win any of their previous four matches, scoring just one goal in the process. That was probably the reason why he introduced the likes of Viktor Fischer and Thomas Kahlenberg to the side, but that did not turn out to be such a good decision. Ajax starlet did have moments of brilliance, but was lacking the end product, whereas the former Wolfsburg midfielder was pretty disappointing throughout, with the silly foul on Emil Forsberg that resulted in a penalty to Sweden almost ending team’s chances of reaching the tournament finals. Morten Olsen did manage to correct his mistakes by introducing the likes of Yussuf Poulsen, Nicolai Jorgensen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who all played an important role in helping Denmark get back into the game. Tottenham star Christian Eriksen was also quite impressive, and it was one of his brilliant passes that maybe should have resulted in a penalty and a red card for Erik Johansson as Nicklas Bendtner was clearly denied a goalscoring opportunity. Denmark should now revert to attack-minded approach for the return match, with the team that ended the game in Solna likely to start at Parken in Copenhagen.
Sweden headed into the first play-off leg in better mood than their neighbours despite also missing a chance to secure automatic qualifying berth, although many believed that the absence of Albin Ekdal and Pontus Wernbloom would prove to be a problem for coach Erik Hamren. However, the midfield duo of Kim Kallstrom and Oscar Lewicki did a great job in the centre of the park, with Jimmy Durmaz and especially Emil Forsberg helping out the attack every chance they got. As that is usually the case, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was close to his best in a slightly withdrawn role behind Marcus Berg, but the Panathinaikos forward missed a couple of great chances to break the deadlock early on. And just as the teams were about to go on a half-time break, Mikael Lustig picked up a marvelous back-heel pass from Jimmy Durmaz and then found Emil Forsberg with a low cross which the winger converted with incredible ease. Sweden were soon two goals up as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored from the penalty spot after Forsberg was tripped by Thomas Kahlenberg, but Blagult failed to hold on to the lead and will now have to produce another promising performance if they want to make it through. The PSG forward will again lead the team after he narrowly escaped a yellow card that would have seen him banned for the match at Parken, while Erik Johnasson will continue to deputize for Mikael Antonsson, who has been ruled out with a thigh problem.
Even if we expected a cagey affair in the first leg, both teams looked quite dangerous when going forward and with the scoreline now giving both sides a good chance to progress, we could witness another open match, despite the fact that there is a lot at stake. As a result, our advice is to back both teams to score.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 1/1
Bookmaker: William Hill