Sweden are preparing to meet a "winning machine" when they face Germany in the World Cup this Saturday, according to Werder Bremen's Ludwig Augustinsson, who has tipped RB Leipzig's Emil Forsberg to take Zlatan Ibrahimovic's mantle as his nation's standout star.
Sweden face Germany in Sochi in a crucial game for both nations' hopes of reaching the knockout stages, with Sweden leading the group with three points and Germany yet to get off the mark after losing their opener to Mexico.
Bremen full-back Augustinsson is not reading much into those contrasting fortunes, though, and still believes that the World Cup holders are among the favourites to win the title again.
"Germany are a winning machine," he said in an Alexi Lalas podcast. "They're always good at World Cups; they're very difficult opponents. We need to deliver, do something special. We beat Italy, France, came ahead of Holland, so anything's possible. Everyone wants to see something special; expectations are high among the fans."
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Those expectations remain high even if Ibrahimovic was not included in their World Cup squad. His omission raised a few eyebrows, but Augustinsson can understand why he was overlooked – a sentiment arguably shared by Bundesliga and Leipzig fans.
"Forsberg's a very good player," Augustinsson said. "He's one of the guys that plays at the highest level in the national team. He's had some really good seasons with Leipzig. He's really important and does these extra things, like Zlatan. He can decide games. Forsberg has done it for us in some games, it’s really important to have one of these players."
Equally important, though, is having a strong team spirit and work ethic, which the Swedes will aim to demonstrate again on Saturday, at the same time hoping to snatch a goal that could mean premature qualification for the last 16.
"Sweden are a very compact team," said the 24-year-old. "We work so hard for each other – everyone knows what to do. When we press, we press together. In attack, we have qualities to play. We scored goals in qualifying, but we need to show this more often. We're very good defensively, and very smart in attack."
With that combination, Augustinsson hopes to rekindle a childhood dream – or nightmare. "It was back in 2002," he recalled. "It was the World Cup where Brazil won, with Ronaldo dominating, and Sweden were there as well. They got to the last 16, so it was very good, but I remember I was very sad when they lost to Senegal."
The African nation are potential opponents in the last 16 again at this World Cup, although Augustinsson says it's "good to get through the group" without making any calculations about who they could meet.
The next step is beating Germany, and then perhaps the Bremen full-back can start to consider revenge for the class of 2002.