GELENDZHIK, Russia (Reuters) - Sweden’s players have put a turbulent 36 hours behind them and are ready to take on Mexico in a game they must win to advance to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
After losing in the closing minutes to Germany and seeing their winger Jimmy Durmaz subjected to a storm of racial hatred on social media, the players and staff presented a united front as they packed their bags before heading to Ekaterinburg to meet Mexico.
“We were a strong group from day one, and obviously this can help. We were clear after the match that this (the abuse of Durmaz) was unacceptable ... We backed him up in a good way, together,” defender Pontus Jansson told reporters.
Racial abuse and threats against Durmaz were reported to the Swedish police by the FA on behalf of the player, and the Swedes want to put the incident and the Germany loss behind them.
“It (the Mexico match) is like a last 16 game, we know we have to win to go through. We’re not nervous, it’s more that it’s a great task to have,” Jansson said.
Sweden can qualify with a win over Mexico if Germany lose to South Korea, and if both Sweden and Germany win it is possible the Swedes could advance on goal difference.
A draw will give Mexico victory in Group F but may not be enough for the Swedes to go through.
“Normally they like to play a high press, they like to keep the ball in possession... Now we have a situation that they can go through without winning the game,” Sweden scout Tom Prahl told reporters.
Having been caught out late by Germany, the Swedes will be cautious in pursuit of victory.
“The main thing is that we score one goal more than Mexico after 90 minutes, and if it will come in the 85th minute that’s quite alright,” Prahl said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Hugh Lawson