GELENDZHIK, Russia (Reuters) - Sweden’s Bundesliga winger Emil Forsberg said he needed to be more like himself if he was to silence his critics and effectively send Germany home from the World Cup when the sides meet in their Group F clash in Sochi on Saturday.
A win for Janne Andersson’s side could see reigning world champions Germany, where Forsberg plays for RB Leipzig, leave the World Cup after the first round for the first time in 80 years.
“The pressure is on Germany, at the same time we don’t want to go in and let ourselves down. We want to show a good side of Sweden against Germany,” the 26-year-old said.
Forsberg was kept on a tight leash in their 1-0 opening win over South Korea and, although he may not have had as much criticism as the German side who suffered a shock 1-0 reverse by Mexico, he knows he has more to give in Sweden’s engine room.
“I’m pretty good at tackling criticism. I’m calm, I’m secure in myself, I’m fairly calm and stable. I understand that if you write that I was bad when I’ve been bad, then it’s normal,” Forsberg told reporters.
A handful of Sweden players trained in the sweltering sunshine on the Black Sea coast on Wednesday, and Forsberg said it was good to get a few touches on the ball and practice his finishing ahead of Saturday’s game.
Known for his pace, balance and trickery, Forsberg quickly made a name for himself in Germany after arriving from Malmo in January 2015, and on Saturday he will aim to send the Germans home.
“We will do everything we can, and be as smart as we can with the ball and without it. The longer the match goes, the more desperate they will get if they haven’t scored,” he said.
As heir apparent to Sweden’s record goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired from the national side after Euro 2016, Forsberg has struggled to be his country’s creative spark in recent games, leading to some media criticism.
“I live with high pressure every day, but the highest pressure comes from myself. I set my bar very, very high because I know what I can do,” he said.
“I just need to be Emil Forsberg, to believe in it, receive the ball and get my feet moving. It’s been lacking recently, but it’s coming,” he said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris