Poland v Sweden
Tuesday 29 March, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Football
Poland looking to extend golden run
Qualifying for major tournaments is a handy knack that Poland have developed in recent years. They have reached the finals of the last four European championships (they co-hosted in 2012, but qualified for the rest) and they also reached the 2018 World Cup finals, their first appearance at international football's premier competition since 2006.
The appearance of the White and Reds in Qatar hangs on this one match, after the semi-final against Russia was scrapped due to the assault on Ukraine. Poland's qualifying record was decent - they finished six points behind England (who are a qualifying machine) and won six of their ten matches. They held the group winners at home, and only lost 2-1 at Wembley thanks to a late goal from Harry Maguire.
Because Poland didn't play against Russia last week, they faced Scotland in a friendly instead, and carved out a creditable 1-1 draw at Hampden Park. Krzysztof Piatek scored a last-gasp leveller from the penalty spot.
Star striker Robert Lewandowski was rested for that Scotland clash, and that's hardly a surprise, given the fact that the Bayern Munich frontman is arguably European football's best centre-forward. He scored a record 41 Bundesliga goals last term, and already has 31 this season, with seven games of the season remaining. For Poland, Lewy has smashed in 74 goals in 128 games, and he is someone who consistently shines on the big occasion. For club and country this season, the former Borussia Dortmund striker has scored 50 goals in just 43 games.
Leeds United midfielder Mateusz Klich is suspended, while Arkadiusz Milik and Bartosz Salamon both picked up injuries last week.
Sweden inching towards success
When it came, Sweden's winning goal against the Czech Republic was a thing of beauty. Robin Quaison and Alexander Isak (who are great friends off the pitch), played a slick interchange of passes, before Quaison found the finish his country needed to secure a 1-0 win.
That goal came deep into extra time, after an unremarkable game of few clear-cut chances. Now, Janne Andersson's side must find the energy to secure one last win, and they will take solace from their recent record against Poland. Sweden have won the last six clashes with Tuesday night's opponents, including a 3-2 victory at EURO 2020.
However, Sweden's general away record is far inferior to their record at home. They lost their final three away qualifiers in Greece, Georgia and Spain, results that cost them an automatic place in Qatar. Including friendlies, but excluding EURO 2020, Andersson's side has lost seven of the last eight on the road.
40-year-old frontman Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back after suspension, and it would be a surprise if he doesn't spearhead the attack here, despite Quaison's heroics. Defender Martin Olsson is out because of injury.
Don't be distracted by Swedish curse
Poland have an abysmal recent record against Sweden, but in such an unusually pressured encounter played on Polish soil, I'm not sure how relevant that will be. They were strong in qualifying, only finishing behind a relentlessly effective England side in their group.
Sweden produced a more laboured performance than I expected against the Czechs, and they are a far weaker force away from the Friends Arena in Solna. Despite their record against Poland, I'm happy to oppose them here.
You can back Poland Draw No Bet at 1.758/11 on the Exchange, but I'll go for Poland to qualify and Under 3.5 Goals at 1.824/5 on the Sportsbook's Bet Builder. As long as Poland make it, and there aren't four goals or more in the first 90 minutes of the match, we'll have a winner. None of Sweden's last nine competitive matches have featured more than three goals, and they'll look to be compact and tough to break down.
Bundesliga stars can catch the eye
When these sides last met, RB Leipzig's Emil Forsberg and Bayern's Lewandowski scored two goals apiece. Forsberg remains Sweden's most consistent creative force, and he is 4.57/2 to score at any time in 90 minutes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is priced at 2.89/5, but he only has eight goals in all competitions this season.
Lewandowski is attractively priced at 2.47/5 to score, and that's a bet I'll happily make. He has scored in 30 of his 43 competitive appearances this season, and has scored six goals across his last three matches for Bayern.