SEB Larsson believes the presence of English referee Howard Webb in tonight’s crucial World Cup qualifier between Sweden and Portugal boosts his country’s chance of going through to the finals.
The Swedes trail 1-0 from the first leg in Lisbon thanks to a late Cristiano Ronaldo strike but Larsson hopes his team will overturn that deficit in Solna this evening and reckons Webb’s refereeing will allow the home team latitude to push hard in the game.
In particular, the Sunderland midfielder believes that Webb will not be conned by players going down easily under pressure.
He said: “We have an English referee now so we can probably go in a bit harder. I do not think he is going to fall for the same tricks so easily.
“Howard Webb is used to refereeing where the game is a little more physical. He’s a great referee, too, which is important for such a big game.”
As well as regular games in the Premier League, Webb has previously refereed a number of big matches, including the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.
The Rotherham official is less popular with Sunderland fans who hold him responsible for several penalty gaffes against their side.
But Larsson is convinced that Webb being selected for the second-leg of the World Cup qualifier between the two nations will see a more physical game being tolerated on a night where temperatures are expected to be little above freezing in Sweden.
Sweden did not shine in Lisbon as they would have liked to, with talisman forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic isolated and Larsson says that tonight they must make better use of their star striker.
“We cannot go out all guns blazing,” he said. “But we must have a more attacking game with more ball higher up the pitch – then we will get Zlatan more in the game.”
Larsson is one of a number of Sunderland players in action tonight.
Jozy Altidore is part of the USA squad taking on Austria in Vienna, Keiren Westwood and John O’Shea will try to help the Republic overcome Poland in Poznan, Charis Mavrias will play for the Greek Under 21s looking to beat their Polish counterparts in Krakow, while Ji Dong-won and Ki Sung-Yueng will aim to help South Korea overcome Russia.