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Sweden– Group D
Coach: Erik Hamren
Squad: Andreas Isaksson (PSV Eindhoven), Johan Wiland, (FC Copenhagen) Pär Hansson (Helsingborg).
Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Olof Mellberg(Olympiakos), Andreas Granqvist (Genoa), Martin Olsson, (Blackburn), Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich), Behrang Safari (Anderlecht), Mikael Antonsson (Bologna).
Rasmus Elm (AZ Alkmaar), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Kim Kallstrom (Lyon), Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Samuel Holmen (Istanbul BB), Emir Bajrami (Twente), Christian Wilhelmsson (al-Hilal)
Likely Formation: 4-4-2
The best result for the Blågult in a Euro Cup has been the semi-finals in the 1992 home edition. The team has reached the final stages of the competition only four times: the first time in 1992 as hosts of the event. The numbers show that the Scandinavians prefer the World Cup, with 11 participations and a second place.
This year Sweden have reached the Euro Championships after coming second in the Group E, behind the Netherlands and ahead of Hungary, Finland, Moldova and San Marino.
On the last matchday they even beat the Dutch selection to stop their 17 winning games streak and secure the pass to the Euros.
This year the number of players who play in Sweden has decreased from six to three when compared to the 2008 Europe Championship squad. Four are the Holland based players, lead by Andreas Isaksson, who should be the starting goalkeeper.
Olof Mellberg should be the rock of the defence. The Olympiacos defender is now 34 years old and has reached 113 caps with the national team and is at his fourth Euro Championship. Certainly not the quickest of defenders, but one coach Hamren can rely on. Martin and Jonas Olsson, who are not brothers, and Mikael Lustig should complete the defensive line. Anderlecht’s Behrang Safari could also receive a chance as left back.
In the midfield, coach Hamren can count on a well assembled mix of young and not-so-young players. Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson could start on the right, Rasmus Elm and vice-captain Anders Svensson in the middle and Lyon’s Kim Källström on the right. Källström and Svensson will guarantee the experience of more than 200 caps while Larsson and Elm the excitement of, respectively, a second participation and a début at the Euro.
Kim Källström, with Mesut Özil, had seven assists during the qualifiers, more than anybody else and the Swedish side will definitely need his technique and talent if they want to survive the though group stage.
The star of this selection is, of course, Zlatan Ibahimovic. The giant striker is, in Sweden and in the rest of the world, a source of discussions and most of the people either love him or hate him. Ibrahimovic, despite declaring his intention to quit with the national team, is still there as the captain and beacon of the team. He has 77 caps and 31 goals for the Blågult and his performances will probably decide whether or not the team will move on. Often criticized for being decisive only against weaker sides, he will have to carry the team on his big shoulders. Ibrahimovic can play as the battering ram of the team but he also likes to drop in order to have more possession. He is able to create spaces and assists and therefore the team will need to insert in these spaces and get these passes, like Nocerino, for example, did during the last season with AC Milan.
Coach Hamren, however, will also be able to rely on Johan Elmander, who is recovering from an injury, and has been praised by Ibrahimovic for the quality he adds to the team. But that is not all: Tobias Hysén, six games and four goals in the qualifiers and 2012 Swedish top-scorer alongside Ibrahimovic, could also play a crucial part for the dynamics of the team.
Still the way to the quarter-finals will be hard for Sweden, considering that, on the paper, France and England seem to have something more than the Scandinavians. But football is not played on paper, but on the football pitch and it would not surprise me if one of the two stronger sides disappoint everybody in this competition and make Sweden’s path easier.
And, last but not least, they can also count on these fans:
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.