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Sweden's Hamren expects playoff thriller

Sweden's coach Erik Hamren is pictured before his team's 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Germany at Friends Arena in Stockhol
Sweden's coach Erik Hamren is pictured before his team's 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Germany at Friends Arena in Stockhol

By Philip O'Connor

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - It is sad that either Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss the World Cup finals but the playoff between Portugal and Sweden will be a thriller, Sweden coach Erik Hamren told Reuters on Tuesday.

The sides meet in Lisbon on Friday in the first leg, with the return four days later at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.

"It's fantastic for all football fans. They are two world-class players. It's sad that one of them is going to miss the World Cup in the summer, but it's going to be really exciting," Hamren said.

"They are two players who can do the little extra and win the game for their country. But I'm sure it's going to be Zlatan who does that for us."

Hamren said he had a "good feeling" as soon as his side were drawn to play Portugal.

"It was strange. They were the highest-ranked and probably the toughest team to meet, but I had a good feeling when I saw Portugal-Sweden. I hope it was the right feeling. We'll see."

Hamren said that he would not be changing his preparations, but that his side will need to be "good for four halves" if they are to progress to Brazil.

"That's the big challenge," he added.

Given Ibrahimovic's form at the Friends Arena and the fact that the deciding game will be played there, Hamren has every right to be confident.

The Sweden captain has produced an array of spectacular goals at the team's new home ground, even if the winner against Austria that put Sweden into the playoffs was one of his simpler finishes.

Ibrahimovic has recently been bothered by a knee injury but following a hat-trick for Paris Saint Germain against Nice at the weekend it does not seem to hinder him too much.

Famed for his sharp suits and his penchant for victory cigars, Hamren revealed that he had not yet bought a celebratory cigar in anticipation of making it to Brazil.

"No, but I am going to buy some," he said with a smile. "We always make sure to have a supply in case we win."

(Editing by Tony Goodson)

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