Group A leaders France will not be taking anything for granted in their World Cup qualifier against second-placed Sweden in Stockholm on Friday, French coach Didier Deschamps has said.
The Swedes shocked the French in Paris in November, keeping the game scoreless throughout the first half and even taking the lead early in the second, but goals from Paul Pogba and Dmitri Payet eventually gave France all three points.
“I’m always careful, always attentive…and I keep an eye on the players,” Deschamps told a news conference at the Friends Arena ahead of the final training session before the game for Les Bleus.
“We’re calm, but we have to be humble especially after that match in November. We cannot believe that it is all over – we are calm, but careful,” the 48-year-old added.
With five of the 10 qualifying games played, France tops the table on 13 points. With the Swedes three points behind in second place and the Netherlands struggling to find their form, a win on Friday would put France in a strong position to qualify.
It would go some way to repairing the heartbreak the French suffered last summer when, as hosts of Euro 2016, they lost the final in Paris to Portugal after an extra-time goal by Eder.
French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said his side were surprised when they first met the Swedes, whose record goal-scorer, former Paris Saint Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has retired from internatonal football.
“They were very quick. The Swedish team have a strong collective,” Lloris told reporters. “Previously they had a tendency to have one unbelievable player in Zlatan, but today it’s different and we see tomorrow’s game as a difficult one.”
The Swedes will be happy to let France have the lion’s share of possession on Friday night, but Sweden coach Jan Andersson says they won’t fall into the trap of giving the ball back to them.
“It happens sometimes in games when you have to chase the ball that, when you win it, you stand still and are passive, and then it’s impossible to do anything,” Andersson told a news conference. “In that moment, you have to want to take part and infleunce (the game).”
For Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist Friday’s match represents a chance for revenge. “I was angry (when we lost), I thought we deserved at least a point,” he told reporters. “We’ll take it tomorrow instead.”