Sweden coach Janne Andersson is focused primarily on seeing his team getting the three points against Malta in tonight’s Group F qualifier at the National Stadium as they look to step up their bid towards winning a place in next year’s Euro 2020 finals.
For the Swedes tonight’s match against Malta has taken a crucial importance as the Nordics are currently engaged in a three-way fight for the second spot in the group and a qualifying spot for Euro 2020 behind run-away leaders Spain.
At present, the Nordics are second on 11 points one clear of Romania with fourth-placed Norway a further one point back.
Last June, Sweden broke little sweat to see off Malta 2-0 at the Friends Arena in Solna but coach Andersson is not underestimating Malta and his main goal this evening is to take all three points.
“We came here with one clear goal… to win the match and take the three points,” the former IFK Norkopping coach told a news conference yesterday.
“At this point, winning matches is our priority to keep alive our hopes of qualification. We know that it’s not going to be easy as Malta has shown a lot of improvement in the last few months and we will need to work hard for the three points.
“I expect my team to have a lot of possession of the ball and we must ensure that we make the right decisions and try and get an early goal that would put us in control of the match.”
The Swedish coach said that in the build-up to the match he analysed well the Maltese national team and said that he was impressed by their defensive organization.
“I have seen a lot of qualifying matches involving the Maltese national team and they have really been a very tough to beat,” Andersson said.
“Defensively they have improved a lot, suffice to say, that in the last two matches against Norway and Romania they conceded just three goals, none from open play. In fact the goals came one from a throw-in, one from a penalty and the other from corner.”
With only four matches to go to the end of the qualifying campaign, Andersson is not looking too far ahead but are approaching it one game at a time.
“At the moment, so far so good for us as we are in second place in the group,” Andersson said.
“But there is very little to separate all the teams in the group. After the match against Malta, we host Spain on Tuesday and then we play Romania and the Faroe Islands. Still, we are not looking too much far away.
“I’m sure that the race for second place will go until the final day of the qualifying campaign.”
On his part, Sweden striker Marcus Berg, who set up two of the goals scored by his side against Malta last June, has warned his team-mates that they need to be patient to break down a solid Maltese defence.
“It’s not going to be easy for us as Malta tend to defend very deeply with six or seven players behind the ball so we have to be patient and try and find the right moment to get the breakthrough,” the FC Krasnodar striker told the Times of Malta.
“For us the priority is to win the match, if we managed to score a lot of goals it would be even better but the three points are all that matter. A win against Malta is the priority as it would put us in a good position to qualify for Euro 2020.”