AUSTRIA AIMS TO DEFY STATISTICS
Against Sweden in Stockholm on Friday, Austria is aiming for something it has done only twice in its last 23 matches abroad — winning. Since September 2005, Austria has earned victories only at Liechtenstein in a 2006 friendly and at Azerbaijan in a Euro 2012 qualifier. "Negative records are there to be broken. We don't care about statistics," Austria captain Christian Fuchs said. "Our last victory might be two years ago but we've had some decent performances since."
Austria beat Sweden 2-1 in Vienna four months ago and coach Marcel Koller, whose 23-man squad is free of injuries, admitted his team prefers home games. "If the opponent is coming to us, we feel better," Koller said. "But this Sweden game is like a final for us and it shouldn't matter where you play."
The last time Austria reached a major tournament was the 1998 World Cup after beating Sweden twice in qualification. In their battle for second place in Group C, Austria trails the Scandinavians by three points before the last two rounds of group matches. On Tuesday, Austria travels to Faeroe Islands while Sweden hosts Germany.
ZLATAN AND THE SWEDES
Loew, whose team plays its last qualifying game in Stockholm, says "the Swedes have outstanding individual players, not just Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But their strength lies in the unity of their team. They showed that in (our) home game," when Ibrahimovic engineered an unlikely comeback as Sweden overcame a 4-0 deficit to earn a 4-4 draw.
Sweden coach Erik Hamren says "Zlatan is hugely important for us." The Paris Saint-Germain striker is important not only as "an excellent player but also as captain. "He is fantastic with young players and takes responsibility." Austria coach Marcel Koller says Ibrahimovic is a "fantastic player" who makes Sweden a strong team.
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