Friday 19 January 2018

Swedes must keep 'fearless' McClean under wraps - Larsson

James McClean jumps to it with Glen Whelan during training last month
James McClean jumps to it with Glen Whelan during training last month
David Kelly

David Kelly

Bullish Sweden wide man Seb Larsson is convinced his side can crush Ireland's World Cup dreams in a sold-out Lansdowne Road this evening – but he did admit he is worried about "fearless" former clubmate James McClean.

"Obviously, I think we have a better team, but I don't underestimate Ireland at all," said the Sunderland player. "I think and believe that we are good enough to take ourselves to the World Cup.

"Ireland have a good team that have players playing in the top leagues. But I'm convinced that we will succeed, the other players and I believe that."

However, having experienced at first-hand the blistering debut season of McClean at Sunderland and his sparkling Stockholm stint, Larsson admits to being wary of the former Brandywell boy.

"I know a fair bit about him having played with him for quite a while," said Larsson. "For me, it's not a massive surprise, he's a very talented player who can offer something different than a lot of other players.

Attitude

"He played well in Stockholm and he's a player we need to keep our eye on. He's always got a no-fear attitude."

The room for error is marginal as Group C of these European qualifiers for Brazil enters a phase the Sunderland man describes as a "four-game mini-league" between three teams for the coveted second place behind Germany.

"We're coming here to try to win the game and then get however many points after that to qualify for the World Cup," he insisted.

"It's a massive game, you can't deny that. We all know what's at the end of these four games, if we are successful, who wouldn't want to play in the World Cup and especially one in Brazil?"

Larsson also played down concerns that his team are much too reliant on the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic who, as he proved in the reverse fixture, can enervate his team-mates should his performance and interest levels dip.

"It's not a concern for us to have a world-class player in our team," Larsson insisted. "He's helped us out before when we haven't reached a level we needed to. We'll all have to chip in and try to do well."

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