FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -Germany hopes to extend its perfect record in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup when it faces Sweden, despite the towering presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker has 11 goals in 12 matches this season in all competitions and Sweden, like Germany, is perfect so far in qualifying. Sweden has played two matches, while Germany has won three in their Group C and is coming off a 6-1 rout of Ireland. Sweden struggled in overcoming the Faeroe Islands 2-1, with Ibrahimovic notching the winner.
With only group winners qualifying automatically, Germany would like to expand the gap to its toughest rival on Tuesday in Berlin.
Ibrahimovic has played only once against Germany, when his team lost 2-0 in the second round of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He was substituted late in the match.
Germany coach Joachim Loew is careful to point out that Sweden should not be considered a one-man team.
"Sweden is not only Zlatan Ibrahimovic," said Loew, who is battling a cold. ""Their attack is of course closely focused on Ibrahimovic. He can be completely unpredictable, his individual class allows him to find solutions in difficult situation. He is their key player, but they also function as a team very well, it's difficult to score against them. The important thing is to disturb Ibrahimovic as soon as he gets the ball and not give him much space."
The Germans and Loew came under fire for losing the European Championship semifinal to Italy, then producing two pale performances in the first two qualifiers, against the Faeroes and Austria. The Germans now have nine points though and are in control of the group.
The emphatic win in Ireland has helped to silence critics but Loew has been forced to acknowledge that the mood inside his squad at the Euros was not as good as presented to the public and that there was dissent among the group, as revealed by some of the players.
Loew also raised eyebrows when he publicly questioned the skill of left back Marcel Schmelzer before the match in Dublin. Schmelzer had a good game, but Germany was hardly challenged and the Germans know they face a tougher match.
"Sweden is very well organized and plays very, very well in defense and they are very clever tactically," said captain Philipp Lahm, who is coming back from suspension. "They have an outstanding striker in Ibrahimovic. But we want to win our last home game of the year."
"Ibrahimovic is a complete striker, who is playing at the top level now," Lahm said.
Ibrahimovic said he was just as happy to set up others as to score himself.
"I am sure anyway that the German defense knows what to expect. I am not unknown. They would have looked closely how I move on the field and they'll know what to do. But so do I," Ibrahimovic told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.
Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira is nursing a hamstring injury and could miss the match. If he is unable to play, Toni Kroos could start the match. He came off the bench to score twice against Ireland.
Striker Miroslav Klose will be looking to increase his tally. With 65 goals, he is only three behind the record of Gerd Mueller.
Germany has 14 wins against Sweden, with 12 defeats and eight draws.