Sweden have every confidence Al Ain striker Marcus Berg and his fellow forwards can fire the team to an opening victory at the World Cup when they take on South Korea on Monday.
The Scandinavians, placed in a testing Group F with world champions Germany and Mexico, have found scoring tough going in their most recent matches. Since defeating Italy in the play-offs for Russia last November, they have found the net only once in four matches. The goal drought stretches to more than five hours of play.
However, Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist is backing his side to come good by the time they face Korea at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
Sweden can call upon for the match the in-form Berg, who arrives at the World Cup on the back of a superb debut season for Al Ain. The frontman, who joined the Garden City last summer from Greek side Panathinaikos, scored 36 goals in 36 appearances. In doing so, he finished with the 2017/18 Arabian Gulf League’s Golden Boot (25 goals in 21 appearances), while he also stood top of the assists charts.
Berg’s bounty ensured Al Ain clinched the UAE championship for the first time in three years. He notched a goal in the President’s Cup final as well, as the UAE champions sealed an historic double.
That in itself should be enough to convince Sweden they can turn around their form in front of goal during the next two weeks – at least – in Russia.
World Cup 2018: Day 4 live updates
Quaresma, Berg, Tite, Cuper - players and managers with UAE links at World Cup 2018
Asked about their struggles in scoring, captain Granqvist countered: “These were friendlies, which are different to a World Cup game. Some of the teams we played against were ranked top 15 in the world and they didn’t allow us many chances to score from, but neither did we allow them to get many chances.
“We have strikers who are quite capable of scoring, we have others who are very important to our attacking game and I hope we have kept all of that for tomorrow and we score lots of goals."
Sweden were more prolific during qualification for the World Cup, scoring in all but one of their 10 qualifiers to finish behind France and ahead of the Netherlands in the standings. They secured their place at this month's tournament by defeating 2006 champions Italy 1-0 in their two-legged play-off.
Sweden manager Janne Andersson added: "We’ve worked more on our attacking game in the last few days, but scoring will also depend on what our opponents allow us to do, how we set up our chances and how we finish.
"We haven’t had much variation in the past few matches and didn’t create very much going forward. But I hope we are able to progress on from that."