Euro 2012 focus on Sweden: Zlatan & Co aim to spring surprise in Group D
Looking ahead to one of England’s opponents in Group D at Euro 2012, we focus on Sweden.
The Swedes will be looking to be competitive amongst tough competitors in the group after a qualifying campaign in which they lost just two games. They will hope to take some of that form to enable them to gain a surprise place in the knockout stages.
Star Man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The enigmatic Milan striker has divided opinion amongst fans and pundits alike for years. However, after an impressive season in Serie A, in which he scored 28 goals, he is definitely the dangerman for opposition defences.
At the start of qualification he was handed the captain’s armband in the belief that his new-found maturity would benefit the younger squad members and Ibrahimovic has repaid the faith shown in him by manager Erik Hamren in the form of five goals in eight matches, making him Sweden’s leading scorer in qualification.
Normally known as an out-and-out striker, Hamren has experimented with his position in recent friendlies, with Ibra shining in the playmaker role in a recent win against Iceland.
A potential match winner on his day, opponents will be praying that the Swedish talisman has a quiet tournament.
Rising Star: Magnus Elm
After starring for AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch league for a number of years, Elm looks likely to secure a move to England after the tournament. A goal-scoring midfielder, known for his ability to provide precise passes and fine set pieces, Elm has now made himself a mainstay in the Swedish midfield with 22 international caps.
Liverpool fans will want to keep an eye out for the man that they have been heavily linked with an £8 million move.
Manager: Erik Hamren
Taking over as national team manager in 2009 after successful spells in club management with Aalborg and most recently Rosenborg, where he guided the Norwegian side to back-to-back titles, Hamren guided his side to the Euro 2012 finals with eight wins from ten games in a group that contained Holland, Hungary and Finland.
After playing semi-professional football in Sweden, Hamren began his coaching career in the late 1980s and quickly rose through the ranks, gaining plaudits for being a shroud tactician. Hamren originally took part-time charge of Sweden, before taking full responsibility after leaving Rosenborg.
Prediction: Group Stages
In a difficult group containing France, England, and co-hosts Ukraine, Sweden face an uphill task in reaching the knock-out stages.
However, a good competitive record against England will give them confidence and the belief that they could recreate some of the performances that led to them finishing in third place in 1992.
However, with a number of players reaching the twilight of their careers, challenging in Group D may well be a step too far for a team lacking depth and quality in certain areas.