Swede Dreams – Sunderland midfielder Seb Larsson sets his sights on Euro 2012

Seb Larsson

Seb Larsson

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SEB LARSSON insists he hasn’t given up hope of appearing at next summer’s European Championships, without resorting to the lottery of the play-offs.

The Sunderland midfielder is expected to play through the pain of a broken toe to line up for Sweden in tonight’s penultimate qualifier with Scandinavian neighbours Finland.

Victory for the Swedes would guarantee them the runners-up spot in Group E and a place in the play-offs, although they can still mathematically finish in top spot.

It would take a small miracle though, with Sweden needing group leaders Holland to lose at home to Moldova to keep their hopes of leapfrogging the Dutch alive.

If Holland do slip up tonight, then they would face a winner-take-all final qualifying game in Stockholm on Tuesday.

Larsson told the Echo: “We’re still looking to qualify as the best-placed runners-up.

“Finland away is a derby for us and it’ll be a tough one for us.

“Denmark against Sweden is the big one without a doubt. They’re the two most successful Scandinavian teams when it comes to football.

“But it’s always nice to beat a fellow Scandinavian country, especially when it’s such an important game.

“If we win that, we’re guaranteed a play-off and then we play one of the top teams in the world, Holland.

“We’ve managed to beat big teams in Sweden before though and with a spot at the Euros at stake, I’m sure we can deliver.”

Sweden boast a proud record when it comes to qualifying for major tournaments, with last summer’s World Cup their first absence from an international competition since 1998.

Larsson insists no one would relish taking on the Swedes in the play-offs, although he cites Ireland’s controversial exit against France in the sudden-death qualifier for the World Cup as evidence of how anything can happen.

Sunderland’s summer signing added: “If you end up in the play-offs it’s difficult. They’re all good teams in there.

“Just look at the play-off last year when Ireland should have beaten France which not many people expected.

“But we still fancy our chances to get there, whoever we face.”