Sweden, as always, head into Euro 2012 with a reputation of being a decent team but not good enough to get anyone excited, especially the neutrals. The Scandinavian outfit has always been the kind of team which no one likes to have in their group but are glad to face them in the knock-out rounds at the cost of avoiding the heavyweights. With only one or two real superstars in their squads over the years, largely their team has been comprised of hard working good players failing to be categorized amongst the very elite, which more or less highlights the lack of any major honours on the international stage for the yellow brigade.
However, despite the lack of ‘great’ players, the Swedish fans would be more than disappointed with a World Cup runners-up place being their best result in a major tournament. This time though, the Swedish players will be determined more than ever to put up a better show to overcome the disappointment of not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. But alas, determination doesn’t always prove to be enough.
Lars Lagerbäck stepped down as Sweden coach in 2009, just after the team failed to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa. The Swedish F.A. had high regards for Hamrén as they hired him despite his contractual commitments to Rosenberg which kept him in Norway until 2010. However, the F.A. offered him to perform the role of the Swedish manager in dual capacity and Hamrén performed it admirably well as he led Rosenberg to a second successive league title before he left the post in September to take a crack at the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with Sweden.
Hamrén, much unlike his predecessor, has adopted an attacking approach which has made the Blågult a very exciting team to watch for fans and neutrals alike. He has been praised in most of the sections of media especially since Lagerback’s passive strategy was considered the main reason for the team’s failure to qualify for South Africa. It would be interesting though, to see whether Hamren continues the same approach in the finals as well or revert to a safety approach as he finds his team in the group of death.
Sweden qualified through as the best runners-up from a tough group which had the Netherlands, Hungary and Finland amongst others with all three of them known to be quite handful, especially on their home turf. The Swedes played some exciting yet solid football as they won eight of their ten games losing only to Holland and Hungary – both away from home. Although Holland gave them a thrashing in Amsterdam, Sweden took their revenge in the final game by beating the Dutch and sealing their progress through to the Finals.
The Blågult scored 31 goals while conceded only 11 in their ten games as Hamren’s attacking tactics worked wonders for them. What was even more heartening for the manager was the fact that Ibrahimovic scored only 5 out of the 31 goals as all the players made a scoring contribution to the team’s success. Although the Netherlands secured top spot, the manager would have been more than happy with his team’s performance.
Sweden Team News and Strategy
Goalkeepers: Par Hansson (Helsingborgs), Andreas Isaksson (PSV Eindhoven), Johan Wiland (Copenhagen)
Sweden have a very experienced goalkeeper in Isaksson at their disposal who has donned the gloves 92 times for his country and has been the Swedish Goalkeeper of the year four times. Johan Wiland is also an experienced custodian and has been the Swedish no. 2 for a long time and would have been the first choice during those years if not for Isakkson. Hansson, although young and inexperienced, is considered to be a special talent in his homeland and can surely perform the task admirably if called upon at any stage in the tournament. All in all, Sweden are pretty assured in the goalkeeping department.
Defenders: Mikael Antonsson (Bologna), Andreas Granqvist (Genoa), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Olof Mellberg (Olympiacos), Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich Albion), Martin Olsson (Blackburn), Behrang Safari (Anderlecht).
Sweden will be without the tall and aggressive Daniel Majstorović as he ruptured a cruciate ligament in February which ruled him out for the season as well as the Euros. Majstorovic was a crucial member of the Swedish defence during qualifying as his team conceded only 11 goals throughout the ten-game qualifying campaign that included a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Netherlands. In the absence of the Celtic defender, the defence will be relying even more heavily on the 34-year old Olof Melberg who was incidentally missing in both the games that Sweden lost during qualifying.
Andreas Granqvist, in all probability, will cover for Majstorovic and will be ably supported by Lustig at right back and Behrang Safari on the left side of defence. Sweden also have a good bench strength in defence with the likes of Martin Olsson and Jonas Olsson in the squad.
Midfielders: Emir Bajrami (Twente), Rasmus Elm (Alkmaar), Samuel Holmen (Istanbul BB), Kim Kallstrom (Lyon), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Christian Wilhelmsson (Al Hilal).
The manager is likely to go in with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Svensson and Wilhelmsson likely to be deployed as the deep lying play-makers. Both featured in most of the games during qualifying and Hamren is unlikely to change that unless there is an injury or a need to change the formation. Sebastian Larsson and Kim Kallstrom are also likely to be present in all the games for the Scandinavians to form the part of the attacking trio with Rasmus Elm or one of the strikers taking the other place behind the lead striker.
The midfield department is a bit of a weakness for the manager as they lack an influential midfielder who has a presence and can control the game in midfield. Although, Svensson and Wilhelmsson are considered to be good ball players and are good at keeping possession, much of that is inside the own half or part of the passing routine. The bench strength is also nothing to be excited about for the manager as none of the reserves, despite being decent players, can be considered to be influential enough to change the course of the game when called upon by Hamren.
Forwards: Johan Elmander (Galatasaray), Tobias Hysen (IFK Gothenburg), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Milan), Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen), Ola Toivonen (PSV Eindhoven).
The strikers’ selection is a bit of a mystery for fans and pundits alike, especially the selection of the injured Johan Elmander. The ex-Bolton man has been struggling with injury and is facing a race against time to be fit for the first game against Ukraine. John Guidetti, who has been in terrific form for Feyenoord, has been omitted leaving everyone amazed. Also, Markus Rosenberg is selected despite not featuring at all in the qualifiers.
All this has increased the onus on Ibrahimovic’s shoulders, who will be leading the line for his team. The formation also suits his style of play as his brilliant hold up play allows the three attacking midfielders to bomb forward into space behind the opposition defenders especially during counter-attacking situations.
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For: Zlatan Ibrahimvovic
The talisman has had yet another wonderful season in club colours and if he continues his rich vein of form for the national team, there would be little stopping them in progressing through to the next round. His brilliant footwork can leave the best defenders mesmerized as he has proved for the past so many years in various leagues across Europe.
However, the big man has mostly failed on the big occasion but this is, in all probability, his last chance to make amends. Hamren will be hoping for the real Ibra to show up or else his team is going to find it extremely difficult in going past the likes of England and France.
The draw has not been very kind for the Swedish to say the least as they have been pitted in the group of death alongside France, England and the co-hosts Ukraine. Hence, the Swedes have to play out of their skin in order to progress to the next stage and even that might not prove to be enough. France and England are certainly the favourites to go through and even if Sweden manage to cause a major upset, they are not expected to go past the first knock-out round.