After the disappointment of failing to reach the World Cup finals in 2010, Sweden return to take their place in Poland & Ukraine and in turn qualify for their fourth straight European Championship. However, they left securing their place at the finals uncertain up until the final game of qualifying. A 3-2 victory inspired by a memorable display from Galatasaray striker, Johan Elmander over 2010 World Cup runners-up, the Netherlands ensured that Hamrén’s men would qualify virtue of being the best runners-up, with an accumulation of 8 wins from 10 games during the qualification phase.
Having recently been given his first cap, rising star John Guidetti was hotly tipped for a place in the Swedish squad. However, an injury thought to be too severe by manager Erik Hamrén meant Guidetti was left behind. In his place, Werder Bremen striker Marcus Rosenberg has been given the nod. Rosenberg’s commitment may come in to question as he left himself unavailable for selection during the qualifiers. He claimed he should not be the 4th or 5th choice striker and that he had shown enough to be guaranteed his squad membership. Apart from that, Hamrén’s squad selection for the tournament does not include any surprises and overall the manager can be pleased with the lack of serious injury to the remainder of his squad. However, there are some question marks over the employability of Johan Elmander, who is a slight doubt due to a foot injury but his inclusion in the squad is a sign of his importance. Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and right-back Mikael Lustig are both carrying minor injuries but it appears the manager will play them nonetheless. Daniel Majstorovic misses the tournament through injury.
Reaching the semifinals is a target and both Hamrén & Ibrahimovic share the view that winning the tournament is not impossible
Tactics and probable line up
Erik Hamrén won’t change his formation for the tournament and will continue to utilise the 4-2-3-1 system that was so successful during the qualifying stages. That Sweden are strongest in midfield might be the reason for this. While the goalkeeping and fullback positions appear a little weak the same cannot be said about the central midfield positions. Few teams are able to bring players such as Kallstrom, Wernbloom, Rasmus Elm, Anders Svensson and Ola Toivonen, with the latter, a key player for club side PSV, often overlooked for a starting place in the national side, intimating the competiton for a place in the midfield is very tough.
Probable line up:
Isaksson, Lustig, J Olsson, Mellberg, M Olsson – Svensson, Elm, – Larsson, Kallstrom, Elmander -Ibrahimovic
One to watch
Superstar Ibrahimovic will as always be the player getting the majority of the media attention. The leftover limelight will most likely be heading the way of Sunderland ace, Sebastian Larsson or up and coming midfield maestro, Rasmus Elm. However, in the Swedish camp, few are as important on and off the pitch as Anders Svensson.
Anders Svensson epitomizes what is good about the Swedish national team. An industrious player who always puts the team first, knows his limitations and does not try to be a more creative player than he is. This low-key approach has seen him earn the nickname ‘Taco-Anders’, after he dished out his passion for the Mexican specialty when asked what he missed most about Sweden during his time at Southampton.
While his fellow contenders for midfield spots score against Spanish giants Real Madrid in the Champions League knockout stages (Wernbloom), win league titles in France (Kallstrom) or have the cream of English football following your every move (Rasmus Elm), ‘Taco-Anders’ has been quietly plying his trade in the Swedish league. Although not hogging the headlines, anyone who follows Swedish football will say that one of the most significant reasons why Elfsborg are perched at the top of Allsvenskan going in to the break for the European Championships is due to the performances of the former Southampton midfielder.
At the age of 36, Anders is rapidly reaching the end of his career. It would be the most fitting of ends to a fantastic career if he brought some well-deserved silverware into retirement. He is perhaps most likely to achieve this in domestic competition but considering his propensity to overcome the odds, would the wise money be on him not picking up a winners medal in Kiev? Probably.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains the only world class player in the Swedish team and the captain will be carrying the nations hopes on his shoulders yet again. Critics outside of Italy remain doubtful on whether he is truly a world class player but ‘Ibra’ himself has never been one to doubt his worth. In order to be remembered as a legend on the international stage, Zlatan will need to produce some magic this tournament.
“I want to see how good you are, what kind of player you are. Have a trial”.
“No way, Zlatan doesn’t do trials”.
(Ibrahimovic discussing a potential move to Arsenal with Wenger in 2001)
While Sweden remains strongest in the central midfield area, left back was the position causing major trouble for Hamrén during the qualifying stages. Behrang Safari was given the nod to in the early stages but a poor display away against Holland meant he was dropped. In came Oscar Wendt but the former IFK player experienced a nightmare game away against Hungary and was removed from the team. Hamrén then turned to Martin Olsson and he has been solid to start with. However, doubts still remain whether the Blackburn player really has what it takes seeing that he was overlooked for large parts of the qualifying stages.
Sweden and manager Erik Hamrén have announced reaching the semifinals as a target and both Erik and Ibrahimovic share the view that winning the tournament is not impossible. However, having been paired in the same group as France, England and co-host nation Ukraine the Swedes are seen as outsiders to progress from the group stages. Reaching the quarterfinals must be seen as a good tournament display and anything beyond will be regarded as a major success. Sweden kick start their competition by playing host nation Ukraine on 11th June and anything but a win will most likely spell an early end to their tournament.
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