Euro 2016 play-off draw has served us some interesting ties, but none more so than the Sweden vs Denmark clash, where Nordic neighbours will battle it out for a place at the tournament finals. And while all eyes will be on Zlatan and what is probably his final attempt to reach a major tournament, one Lord Bendtner will be out to steal the limelight from the PSG superstar.
Sweden have never been too far from Europe’s top sides, but they never managed to make that final step up and shine at a major tournament. Between 2000 and 2008, Blagult did not miss single European Championship or World Cup finals, but out of those five attempts they only once made it past the group stage. Not even Zlatan Ibrahimovic could help turn Sweden into a true European powerhouse, and the Euro 2016 campaign definitely did not go according to plan. And while red-hot Austria quickly created a serious advantage at the top of the group, Blagult entered the final stage four points clear of third-place Russia and with an automatic qualifying berth virtually in the bag. But, disappointing back to back defeats to their rivals for the top 2 positions meant that Erik Hamren’s side had to look for an alternative route to France. Things are not looking too promising for Sweden ahead of the play-offs and not only because they have failed to score a single goal in last five meetings with Denmark. On top of that, the hosts are without important midfielders Albin Ekdal and Pontus Wernbloom, although at least Oscar Lewicki and Kim Kallstrom have recovered from injury.
Similar to their neighbours, Denmark only have themselves to blame for missing out on automatic qualifying berth, with just two points taken from last three qualifiers allowing Albania to secure a shock progress to the tournament finals. While the back line has been in perfect working order, conceding just one goal in the final four Euro 2016 qualifiers, the Danes have experienced problems up front, having failed to score in three successive matches. The lack of regular playing time at club level is clearly affecting star striker Nicklas Bendtner, who could only score 2 goals in 8 starts during the current campaign, but he is obviously not the only one to blame for the dispapointing attacking record. Having spent last 15 years at the helm of the national team, legendary coach Morten Olsen will know all too well that rock-solid defence can bring Denmark much closer to France and no doubt that his defence-minded side, with either William Kvist or Andreas Christensen in front of the back four, will not be taking too many risks going forward at Friends Arena in Solna. Having suffered a freak hand injury in his hotel room, Leon Andreasen has been ruled out of both legs, whereas talented winger Pione Sisto is out as well. Thomas Delaney, Morten Rasmussen and Rasmus Falk have been drafted into the squad.
With Sweden having failed to score in five successive matches against their neighbours and Zlatan Ibrahimovic likely to receive special attention from Denmark defenders, chances will be few and far between at Friends Arena. Morten Olsen’s charges have been quite impressive at the back of late, and we can easily see the match either ending in goalless draw or in 1-0 triumph for one of the sides.
Verdict: Under 1.5 goals
Best Odds: 13/8
Bookmaker: William Hill