Whoa, I have 10 teams to preview (including this one) in the nine days before the tournament. I also want to stay ahead of the previews being posted on the main soccer page (they already got to Greece before me). Time to get trucking. I will be looking at Sweden today.
(You can click on the nation to see the previous posts)
Sweden are not a great team buy they certainly are a team with history. They have made it to 11 world cups, including a final against Brazil when they hosted in 1958. They have reached the semifinals an additional 3 times, most recently in USA 94. However, they failed to qualify for South Africa. Sweden has had less luck in the Euros, though they do have a good bit of history. They first qualified in 92. 2012 will be their 5th appearance. In their first go at European football, Sweden made it all the way to the semifinals. They haven't had quite as good of a run since then.
Sweden qualified to the Euros automatically by having the best record through 8 games out of all the second place teams. In their group of Holland, Hungary, Finland, Moldova, and San Marino, Sweden lost only two games: one to Holland and one to Hungary. They won the rest of their games. That was good enough for 24 points. It should be noted that Sweden played 10 qualifying matches while other played only 8 because of unequal group sizes. Coming into the Euros, Sweden won their final qualifier against the Netherlands, lost 2 matches to Denmark and England to close out the year, and won the 3 friendlies they have played so far this year. In their last 5, they are LLWWW. They play Iceland later today and are expected to win.
Sweden are called Blågult, which translates into blue-yellow, which reflects their away and home team, respectfully.
In their last qualifier, Sweden played a 4-4-2 against Holland. It can be expected that this will be their formation for the most part in the Euros. Erik Hamrén is a former Swedish player himself. He has been with national team since 2009. He was awarded the Football Manager of the Year in both Denmark and Norway in 2008 and 2009, respectfully.
Sweden, like England, like to take the long ball approach. Perhaps unlike England, Sweden have the personal to implement it. They have a team full of tall players as well as set-piece specialists. Sweden is also known for being clean; don't expect them to foul much. It should be noted that they have an aging squad with 9 players on the wrong side of 30. In Euro 2008, they received the fewest yellow cards and were among the teams with the lowest foul counts. To make up for a lack of raw talent, Sweden have a disciplined a cohesive side. Sweden are ranked 17th in the world and 12th in Europe by FIFA.
Players of Mention
The 34 year old center back has an amazing total of 112 caps with 7 goals. If he plays in all 3 group stage matches, he will equal with the 4th most caps for his country.
This is the vice-captain. He might be the real leader in the team if Ibrahimovic is captain for being the best player on the team. The 35 year old has 126 caps with 18 goals. He is the second highest capped player and the highest capped outfield player. Svensson plays for Elfsborg in Sweden, where he is captain. Expect him to play either on the left or in the middle as a playmaker. Svensson played on the left. He also can hit set pieces. In the final qualifier,
The 29 year old plays in France with Olympique Lyon as a center mid. Lyon finished 4th in the league this year. Like Svensson, he can play on the left or as a central mid and is a creative force. The lefty can play as both a deep creative midfielder and as an attacking midfielder. In the final qualifier, he played centrally. He has 90 caps and 16 goals with Sweden.
The Sunderland man is actually a former Gunner. He had three appearances before moving to Birmingham. He joined Sunderland after Birmingham were relegated last year. Larsson plays as a right midfielder or winger and has 39 caps with 5 goals. Opta once rated him as the most accurate free kick taker in the premier league, scoring 3 goals that way in 2007 (half of the goals he scored that year). At 26, he is easily one of the younger starters on the team. With Sunderland, he had 32 starts, helping the team finish 13th.
By far the most famous player on the team, the Milan man is expected to be the offensive power that carries the team. The Swede is a grand 6 foot 5 inches tall, perfect for a target forward in a 4-4-2. He has a total of 75 caps with 29 goals. He has been even more impressive with AC Milan, scoring 28 goals in 32 appearances. That is over .88 goals a game. That is hugely impressive in a very defensive Serie A. That goal tally secured the 30 year old the golden boot for the year.
This 31 year plays for Galatasaray in Turkey. He should be the second striker to Ibrahimovic. He has 16 goals in 63 appearances for Sweden. He moved from Bolton to the Turkish side last year and helped his team reach the title with 12 goals in 36 appearances, a striker rate of .333. Elmander certainly is not short, coming in at 6 foot one.
Chances in Euro 2012
Sweden certainly have a doable group. Both England and France should be tough opposition but beatable opposition. It would not be a surprise if the Scandinavians finished third, nor if they finished in the top 2. Sweden are certainly expected to beat Ukraine. If they make it out of the group, Sweden can expect to find Italy or Spain, which will probably put a stop to their run. Croatia would also be a problem for them. Sweden will be all smiles if they come up against Ireland.
Matches to Watch
England vs. Sweden
Sweden play very much like a typical English side. That makes this match up intriguing to me.
France vs. Sweden.
France and Sweden are right next to each other in FIFA Rankings. This should mean a close but hotly contested game.
I think Sweden will make a few surprises and find a way out of the group. I think either England or France will have a melt down and allow the Scandinavians a chance to slip by. But I think that when Sweden comes up to the likes of Italy or Spain, they will stall. Quarter finals for me.
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