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   June 6, 2002 | 1042 IST



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Sweden expecting tough match

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It may be the poor relation of group F but Sweden are expecting a difficult game against Nigeria on Friday since the African side will be making plans to return home if they fail to pick up at least a point.

While attention will be lavished on the mouthwatering contest between the other contenders, Argentina and England, in Sapporo later in the day, the clash between the Swedes and Nigerians could still be pivotal to the outcome of a fascinating group.

Having lost 1-0 to Argentina in their opener on Sunday, Nigeria must prepare for the worst in Kobe since another defeat will end their interest in the tournament.

But if they can put their inadequate display against Marcelo Bielsa's side behind them and surprise Sweden, it will be the Scandinavians who will be studying flight times out of Japan.

The Swedes' 1-1 draw with England on Sunday has left them vulnerable, under pressure to pick up points against the Super Eagles. Moreover, their June 12 date with the impressive Argentina will not fill them with optimism.

"We know how important this game is," said Sweden coach Lars Lagerback. "This group is very tight and could be decided by one result."

Worryingly for England, victories for Sweden and Argentina on Friday could leave those teams needing just a draw when they meet in Miyagi.

Sweden hope Patrik Andersson will be back against Nigeria, but the defender is still battling to overcome the groin strain that forced him to miss the England match.

Fredrik Ljungberg has recovered from the hip injury he aggravated against England and is set to take his place in Sweden's midfield.


"We think it's going to be very difficult," Ljungberg said of the Nigeria challenge.

"Against Argentina they played counter-attacking football...we don't know if they're going to play like that against us or whether they're going to keep the ball more.

"But we have a lot of respect for them."

Ljungberg's club colleague at Arsenal, Nwankwo Kanu, has been identified by Sweden as Nigeria's most dangerous player.

But the forward, who often likes to orchestrate from deep, is doubtful because of bruised ribs and an ankle problem.

If Kanu fails a fitness test, coach Adegboye Onigbinde could turn to 20-year-old John Utaka, but it is more likely he will draft Pius Ikedia into midfield and play with just two up front.

Defender Efe Sodje is also nursing a knock picked up against Argentina but expects to be fit.

Without question, midfielder Jay Jay Okocha makes Nigeria tick, but he cannot do it all alone.

Someone is required to contribute effectively alongside Okocha if their hopes of matching second round finishes in 1994 and 1998 are not to end prematurely.

If their busiest player turns out, for the second game running, to be goalkeeper Ike Shoronmu, Nigeria will be in trouble.

Probable teams:

Sweden (4-4-2): 1-Magnus Hedman; 2-Olof Mellberg, 4-Johan Mjallby, 15-Andreas Jakobsson, 16-Teddy Lucic; 6-Tobias Linderoth, 7-Niclas Alexandersson, 9-Fredrik Ljungberg, 17-Magnus Svensson; 10-Marcus Allback, 11-Henrik Larsson

Nigeria (4-4-2): 1-Ike Shorunmu; 16-Efe Sodje, 6-Taribo West, 5-Isaac Okoronkwo, 3-Celestine Babayaro; 2-Joseph Yobo, 10-Jay Jay Okocha, 7-Pius Ikedia, 11-Garba Lawal; 9-Bartholomew Ogbeche, 17-Julius Aghahowa

Referee: Rene Ortube (Bolivia)

Miguel Giacomuzzi (Paraguay)
Mat Lazim Awang Hamat (Malaysia)

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