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swede relief that DUFFER retired

SWEDEN'S young star Alexander Kacaniklic admits he's relieved that his club-mate in England, Damien Duff, has remained in international retirement so that Duff will watch tomorrow's World Cup battle on TV instead of taking on the Swedish defence on the field.

Kacaniklic may be a hard name to spell or pronounce, but he's also a hard player to mark and while his career at Fulham appears to have temporarily stalled to the extent that Martin Jol has agreed to let the former Liverpool trainee join Championship side Burnley on loan, he is a key play for the national side and is expected to win his sixth senior cap on the left wing in tomorrow's game here in Stockholm.

Wingers such as Marco Reus (Germany) have already caused nightmares for Séamus Coleman in this campaign with his rampaging act in that 6-1 loss for Ireland and while Kacaniklic is not in the same class as the German star, the wide positions remain a concern for Ireland fans ahead of this game.

But they are a bit worried about us as well, and Kacaniklic says he's pleased that his pal from Fulham is not involved.

"I have been in England for a few years now so I know the Irish players and I know their style," Kacaniklic told the Herald before last night's training session in the Friends Arena.

"I don't see Ireland as having just one threat to us, they play as a team and work hard as a unit, but I am happy that Damien Duff is not here. He is still a top-class player and he would be a big asset to the Irish if he was still in the squad. He's still doing his stuff for Fulham every week," added Kacaniklic, who has also been getting updates from his new team-mates at Burnley.

"Yes, I had a chat with Keith Treacy and Chris McCann about the game this week. They are two good Dublin lads, but we just had a laugh, they didn't try and kick me, they are good lads and they wished me luck.

"It's a massive game for us, it's not the deciding game in the group but it is a very important one."

Kacaniklic is a significant presence in the home side tomorrow as, apart from the Burnley man, every other player in the Swedish side is with a top-flight club, while Ireland's likely starting XI has three players from England's second tier (David Forde, Paul Green and Robbie Brady).

To paraphrase Manchester City CEO Gary Cook's comment about Richard Dunne's name not tripping off the tongue in Bangkok, the soccer-loving kids of Sweden were not trampling over security barriers here to get the autographs of Paul Green and Darren Randolph.

Yet the Swedes insist that they will not have their noses in the air when the handshakes are exchanged tomorrow night.

"We may have some players who are at bigger clubs than the Irish players but we can't afford to be arrogant," says defender Mikael Antonsson, who plays his club football in Italy with Bologna.

"We cannot look down our noses at the Championship in England. We have Alexander Kacaniklic playing in that division with Burnley and he is one of our best players, so we know the Championship is a good league.

"I am a big fan of the Premier League in England so I know a lot of the players.

"We watched some of Ireland's recent games and I knew a lot of the players, but some of them I am not aware of.

"Ireland can still have Premier League players in almost every position, but the most famous one is Robbie Keane," added Antonsson.

"We also know all about Shane Long, Jonas Olsson has told us all about him. "He not only scores goals but makes them as well, we have studied their attackers in detail."


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