Sweden fullback Emil Krafth is well aware of the offensive power of France and he will be aiming to keep mercurial winger Dmitri Payet quiet when the two sides meet in a Group A World Cup qualifier in Stockholm on Friday.
The Swedes shocked the French by taking the lead when the teams clashed in Paris back in November, but goals from Paul Pogba and Payet gave the home side all three points in a match that turned out to be a lot closer than many had expected.
Even if Krafth does manage to keep the 30-year-old Olympique Marseille player quiet in Stockholm, the French have plenty of other attacking options.
“If they just had one good player there’s a risk you’d focus on them, but this whole team is good so you have to focus on the whole team. It’s up to all of us to be in the right positions and to do the right things,” he told Reuters following a training session at the Friends Arena.
Second in the group on 10 points, three behind leaders France, the Swedes have spent much of the week analyzing their opponents and fine-tuning their tactics.
“I’m a fullback, so I focus more on their wingers, in this case Payet,” Krafth explained.
“Before the game you look at some clips, but during the game you don’t think about it. You just try to make it as hard as possible for them.”
The Bologna full back is well aware that a rash challenge against the skillful Payet could leave him looking foolish, and will be making sure he has plenty of support from his team-mates before trying to take the ball.
“It depends a little on where on the pitch they take you on. If it’s deep in our half you might wait until you have support from a midfielder (before trying to tackle).
“Payet likes to cut in and shoot with his right, so you try to steer him to the left to force him to make crosses he doesn’t really want to take.”
Having performed poorly at Euro 2016 and seen record goal-scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic retire after their exit at the group stage there, few would have expected the Swedes to be in contention in Group A. But Jan Andersson’s squad has proved to be a tough nut to crack.
“I think we’ve had a very good qualifying campaign so far. We frightened France away, we drew with Holland at home, and we’ve taken the points against the poorer teams,” the 22-year-old said.
“We have to continue the way we have started and not slow down. We can’t take anything for granted or say we’re great, and then not win any games,” he said. (Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Jon Boyle)