STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden do not fear the prospect of needing a result against the Netherlands in Amsterdam to progress to the World Cup finals at the expense of their struggling Group A rivals, the Scandinavian side’s goalkeeper Robin Olsen has told Reuters.
Going into the final two games, the Swedes are second in the standings, a point behind leaders France and three ahead of the Dutch, who they meet in their final qualifier on Tuesday.
Before that, Sweden host Luxembourg on Saturday and a slip-up there could leave them needing a positive result from an intimidating trip to the Netherlands if they are to have any chance of making it to next year’s finals in Russia.
“I don’t think anyone here is in fear of any team — you always have respect but you’re not afraid,” Olsen told Reuters following a training session in Stockholm.
“We have met them before, they are a good team with a lot of top players that maybe haven’t got it to work, but they still have an individual skill that other teams don’t have.”
The sides played out a 1-1 draw in the opening qualifying game of the campaign in Stockholm and the Netherlands next travel to face a Belarus side they beat 4-1 in Rotterdam before returning home to face the Swedes next week.
Sweden are not looking that far ahead just yet, though, as Luxembourg have proved a tough nut to crack in this campaign, with the Swedes only securing a 1-0 away win against them and group leaders France unable to score in a 0-0 draw in Paris.
“To be honest, I know we’re meeting Holland but I haven’t thought about it so much. It’s about getting in a good position after Luxembourg. That’s a very important game for us in terms of the result,” Olsen said.
Wins in their final two games would guarantee the Swedes second place, with the chance of advancing through a playoff, and they could win the group in the unlikely event of France dropping four or more points against Bulgaria and Belarus.
For Olsen, the opportunity to play at a World Cup would elevate his hopes of a move away from FC Copenhagen next summer, despite having three more years left on his contract.
“I’m striving to play in the Premier League or the Bundesliga. I’m not going to stand here and tell you it’s going to happen, but the goal is to come to the best leagues,” the 27-year-old said.
Having represented Malmo FF and FC Copenhagen in the Champions League, Olsen has amassed plenty of experience on one of the biggest stages in football and a World Cup appearance would only add to that list.
“Right now, my feeling is that I want to go to the World Cup and experience it, and to play well for Sweden there,” he said.
A good performance against the Dutch might catch the eye of the scouts but Olsen is banishing all thoughts of his club future to focus solely on the next two qualifiers.
“We can take the rest later — I don’t know when clubs will come to watch, we’ll have to take that after the summer when it has been said that I could be sold,” he said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by John O'Brien