Although they didn’t win the group in qualifying, Sweden’s impressive eight wins in ten games ensured their qualification into the tournament as the best runners-up, having scored 31 goals in the process. Coach Erik Hamren has done well since taking charge of the Scandinavian outfit in 2009, and his domestic trophy winning experience in Norway and Denmark will play an instrumental role in finding the right balance between the various departments on the pitch.
With a pivotal figure in captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming into the competition at the back of an extraordinary season in Italy with AC Milan, the Swedes will look to the tallest player at the summer’s tournament for goals. While talent, skill and class form the definition of Ibra, the 6 feet 5 inches striker can often cut a desolate and frustrating figure. However, the fact that he did not win a trophy for the first time in his career since 2002, might just unleash the demons and give us an opportunity to witness some ‘Ibra-ca-dabra’.
Without their talismanic skipper, the rest of the Swedish squad is fairly average, though most of the players ply their trade in Europe’s bigger leagues. While Marcus Rosenberg, Ola Toivonen, Tobias Hysen and Johan Elmander make for decent strikers, they lack the level of quality displayed by their skipper and the better players on show this summer. Lyon’s Kim Kallstrom’s assistance from midflied will be influential for the Swedes, as his vision and the precision with which he passes the ball can open up defences at will. Rasmus Elm will partner him in the middle of the park, while Emir Bajrami’s pace and Sebastian Larsson’s crosses could cause some trouble.
The main concern faced by Hamren, however, is in the defence department. The exciting Andreas Granqvist and the experienced Olof Mellberg pairing in central defence, with Mikael Lustig and Martin Olsson on either side, might find it increasingly hard to cope with some of the finest attackers in the world. Andreas Isaksson will wear the No.1 shirt, but his reliability is questionable. There’s no doubt that Sweden’s ability to progress from the group will depend on their tenacious captain, but the right tactics and a solidified performance could see them reach the heights of ‘92.