Sweden qualified after coming second to Holland, as the best group runners-up in qualfication. Just three points seperated the two sides – the Swede’s were the only team to beat the Dutch in that group, as they were 3-2 winners in the final group game – making up for the 4-1 trashing that they had recieved earlier in the campaign.
This Swedish side scored an impressive 31 goals in their qualifying group – trashing minnows like San Marino 6-0 at home and 5-0 away, along with 5-0 and 4-1 victories over Moldova, home and away respectively – this is certainly an attacking Swedish side who have not competed at a major tournament since this competition four years ago.
Under coach Erik Hamren, Sweden don’t seem to do middle ground i.e drawing. It is either winning or losing – with their last draw coming against Germany in November 2010. Since back-to-back defeats against Denmark and England respectively, in late November of last year, Sweden have won their last four games on the bounce, with victories over Bahrain, Croatia, Iceland and Serbia. It would certainly be foolish to write off Sweden in this group – that defeat against England was their first against them in 43-years.
The vast majory of Sweden’s 23-man squad will certainly be familiar to watchers of the European game, particularly when 20 of the 23 play outside of their home league – one plays in the neighbouring Danish league while the Premier League, Serie A and the Dutch Eredivisie are all represented.
While this Swedish side is one that is not getting any younger, it is one that boasts a raft of experienced individuals: Olof Mellberg – playing in his sixth major tournament – is 34, vice-captain, Anders Svensson is 35, strikers Johan Elmander and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are 31 and 30, respectively and have a combined total of 376 caps, if you are to add goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson into the mix that total becomes 467. This experience could count for a lot if Sweden were to progress from this group to reach their first quarter-finals since 2004.
Fixtures: Sweden vs. Ukraine (June, 11th), Sweden vs. England (June, 15th) and Sweden vs. France (June, 19th).