George Tsitsonis

What: UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifiers Group E
Who: Holland (1st; 9 Points) vs Sweden (2nd; 6 Points)
When: Tuesday 12th October 2010, at 19:30 UK Time
Where: Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, Holland

Building on Perfection

World Cup runners-up Holland seek to continue their perfect start to Euro 2012 qualifying on Tuesday night when they host Sweden in Amsterdam. The two teams first faced off against one another more than 100 years ago at the 1908 London Olympics; since then they have played 21 matches, with Holland winning nine times, Sweden emerging as victors on seven occasions and five draws.

Bert van Marwijk’s men have won their first three qualifiers in Group E and are on a streak of 11 wins in a row in qualifying matches (2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 qualifiers). After an unimpressive, if ultimately important, 1-0 victory against Moldova on Friday, the Dutch will hope the return to home comforts at the Amsterdam ArenA will coincide with a better overall performance against Sweden.

The Dutch will be able to look to the recent superb form of Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Huntelaar in particular has been on a great scoring run for the Oranje since the World Cup. Unfortunately Van Markwijk cannot count on long-term absentees Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, surely a headache for the Holland manager.

Reinvigorated and Ready for Battle

New Sweden boss Erik Hamren has enjoyed a fine beginning to his reign as manager of the national team. The 53-year-old has comfortably won all three of his matches since taking over, including two qualifiers against Hungary and San Marino. The signs are there that Sweden are now a revamped side under Hamren, though the team will face a stern test of their credentials against Holland.

If there is one cause for concern for Hamren it will be at the back. It’s there that he will have to find a replacement for regular centre back Olof Mellberg, who misses out on the clash in Amsterdam as he begins serving the first of a two-match suspension. The favourites to start in central defence are Andreas Ganqvist and Daniel Majstorovic. Meanwhile, inspiration for goals will come from the in-form Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the two-goal hero against Hungary last month, Pontus Wernbloom.

Recent form

San Marino 0-5 Holland (03/09; Euro 2012 Qualifiers)
Holland 2-1 Finland  (07/09; Euro 2012 Qualifiers)
Moldova 0-1 Holland (08/10; Euro 2012 Qualifiers)

Sweden 3-0 Scotland (12/08; International Friendly)
Sweden 2-0 Hungary (03/09; Euro 2012 Qualifiers)
Sweden 6-0 San Marino (08/09; Euro 2012 Qualifiers)

Players to watch

Holland – Klaas-Jan Huntelaar: The Schalke frontman has enjoyed a super start to the European season, finding the net regularly for the Bundesliga side despite their struggles at the bottom of the table. The 27-year-old has become the main man in the Dutch attack due to Robin van Persie’s spell on the sidelines, having scored six goals for the Dutch in their last three matches, including the winner in Moldova on Friday. With 22 goals in 39 appearances for the Oranje, it’s clear to see that Sweden will have their hands full on Tuesday night in Amsterdam.

Sweden – Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Since leaving Barcelona, Ibrahimovic has been keen to show his worth and has done so in a strong start to his career at AC Milan. Not only has the 29-year-old scored five goals in seven matches in all competitions for the Rossoneri, the powerful striker has also opened his Euro 2012 account in the qualifiers with a brace against San Marino. Add to this his strike in an August friendly against Scotland and it is apparent that Ibrahimovic is back to his deadly best for club and country.

Match prediction

This match pits an established side in the Dutch against one that is just starting to come together in the Swedes. Holland look to be in good form and are always a formidable side, especially at home. Sweden seem to have gained renewed confidence under Hamren and will surely see this duel as a chance to make some noise in Group E. While Sweden are on the up and will always put forth a battling performance, the Dutch should edge what should be a close encounter. Holland 2-1 Sweden.