Sweden Euro 2016 Squad - Analysis & upcoming fixtures
The Swedish national side were beaten in the play-offs for Brazil 2014 by Ronaldo’s Portugal - but they’re back again, through the very same route.
Having defeated Denmark in qualification, Sweden rubber-stamped their tickets to France for their 5th European tournament since the turn of the century. Before that, Sweden had only qualified once - as hosts in 1992!
In the 7th year of outgoing coach Erik Hamren’s tenure (and the swansong of all-time top scorer Ibrahimovic’s career) Sweden will be looking to give a decent account themselves - how far can they really go?
Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (Kasimpasa), Robin Olsen (Copenhagen), Patrik Carlgren (AIK Solna).
Defenders: Ludwig Augustinsson (Copenhagen), Erik Johansson (Copenhagen), Pontus Jansson (Torino), Victor Lindelof (Benfica) Andreas Granqvist (Krasnodar), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Martin Olsson (Norwich).
Midfielders: Jimmy Durmaz (Olympiakos), Albin Ekdal (Hamburg), Oscar Hiljemark (Palermo), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Erkan Zengin (Trabzonspor), Oscar Lewicki (Malmo), Emil Forsberg (Leipzig), Kim Kallstrom (Grasshoppers Zurich).
Forwards: Marcus Berg (Panathinaikos), John Guidetti (Celta Vigo), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St-Germain), Emir Kujovic (Norrkoping).
The 58-yr old Erik Hamren, former Rosenborg coach joined the Swedish set-up in 2009, juggling the Rosenborg job and his international commitments up until September 2010. Elected Danish and then Swedish football’s manager of the year in 2008 and 2009, the 3-time Swedish cup winner has presided over this team for 7 years now.
In that time, they’ve been decent but Hamren has shown no serious efforts to break their dependence on Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They play a 4-4-1-1 formation to bring the best out of “our only world class player”, as Hamren put it. His disagreements with Borussia Monchengladbach's Oscar Wendt have shorn his team of their best left-back. At the end of this competition, Hamren will step down from the job.
Formations & Tactics
Hamren’s Sweden regularly play with two banks of four, to shut down the space in between, through which teams can pierce their defence. They are hard working and maintain their shape throughout the match, with a ‘score-or-don’t-concede’ attitude. The two holding midfielders are the key to this system as they sit just in front of the defence, keeping things very tight there.
Up front, Berg or Guidetti will sit just in front of the team’s main distraction - Ibrahimovic. In this role, he can pick up late balls and rebounds, as well as linking the play with the widemen and going for crosses. Similarly, he can play next to the frontman to give opposing defences two problems to think about.
Road to the Euro Finals
The Swedes began their Euro qualification in a solid (but unspectacular) fashion, drawing 1-1 against Austria in Vienna as Zengin cancelled out a 7th minute Alaba penalty just 5 minutes after that. Hosting Russia in Solna, Toivonen ensured that Kokorin’s opener once again split the points between the two. It was the second consecutive match in which they were chasing within 10 minutes of play starting.
Against Liechtenstein though, it was 3rd time lucky - they beat them 2-0 with Zengin scoring the opener. In the following fixture against Montenegro, Sweden set the score early on through their talisman Zlatan before a 80th minute Stefan Jovetic penalty made them share the spoils.
Moldova could not handle the ever-improving form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he downed them with a brace, before following up Berg’s opener against Montenegro with more of the same. In the next fixture, he scored again - but that was a late, late consolation in a 4-1 rout at home to Austria.
When they travelled to Vaduz, Liechtenstein, Berg opened the scoring before Zlatan struck again in the 55th minute. In the final fixture, Moldova were defeated by goals from Zengin and Ibrahimovic - who finished the qualification round as top scorer with 8 goals, propelling them into the play-offs once more.
Once there, they were drawn against fellow Scandinavians Denmark, whom the lethal Zlatan netted 3 against in a 4-3 aggregate victory.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Strengths: The Swedish team have a nice blend of experience (Larsson, Ibrahimovic) with some truly exciting youngsters (Guidetti, Lindelof), who were champions of Europe at U-21 level. In Ibrahimovic, they have one of the planet’s most maverick, exciting talents - and this will probably be his last international tournament at the top level.
In midfield, they have the set-piece master Sebastian Larsson - so expect Sweden to go for everything from set-pieces.
Weaknesses: The Swedish national side are good but so greatly dependent on their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In the Swedish team’s case, it’s a truly unhealthy over-reliance. Simply put, if Zlatan doesn’t perform then Sweden don’t perform.
In 21 competitive games since the Euro 2012, he has scored 19 and assisted 6 - around 74% of their goals! When he has failed to make a crucial contribution, they haven’t won at all! In the 8 games in which he wasn’t there Sweden won only once - against Liechtenstein.
Swedish football has seen better days, with even their best man Ibrahimovic stating his concern for Swedish football once he retires. Having gone to play-offs in two consecutive tournaments, they haven’t improved dramatically in that time. In fact, it’s been a decade since Sweden passed the group stage of any international competition.
This year they’ll be up against two of the tournament favourites in Italy & Belgium. Their odds of passing the group stage aren’t so bad, but it’s unlikely they’ll go beyond the last 16.
5th June - Sweden vs Wales (Friendly)
13th June - Sweden vs Republic of Ireland (Euro 2016)
17th June - Sweden vs Italy (Euro 2016)
22nd June - Sweden vs Belgium (Euro 2016)