Sweden looking for redemption at Euros
AFP/The Local · 13 May 2012, 09:52
Published: 13 May 2012 09:52 GMT+02:00
Prior to the 1990s, Sweden's qualification record for big tournaments was patchy to say the least.
Although they had qualified for seven out of 12 World Cups from 1934 to 1986, they had never made it to a European Championship finals before hosting the competition in 1992.
But since then they have been regulars at both major events, missing out only twice on World Cup qualification and once at the Euros since 1990.
They have become something of a steady but unspectacular presence at most international events.
Their qualification for this tournament was quite impressive considering they missed out on the 2010 World Cup.
They pipped Portugal and Croatia as the best second placed team in qualifying thanks to a 3-2 win over the Netherlands in their last group game.
That ended the Dutch team's 17 match group stage winning run and proved that Sweden are capable of mixing it with the big guns.
Their best Euros result came when they hosted the event in 1992 when they reached the semi-finals but this is a competition that has not always been won by the favourites.
Denmark's victory in 1992 and Greece's in 2004 are testament to the surprises the Euros can produce.
Sweden are built around a solid and organised defence looking to launch quick counter-attacks, something similar to tactics Greece used to great success in 2004.
A lot depends on Sweden's talisman, AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Outside of his homeland and Italy he is often considered to be someone who looks a genius against minnows but fails to produce the goods when the going gets tough.
That is perhaps a little harsh as it is naturally tougher to find space and be effective against better teams but Ibrahimovic still has a lot to prove.
He was his team's top scorer in the group stages but his role is more than just finishing things off in the box. He is a focal point for bringing the likes of Kim Källström, Sebastian Larsson and Johan Elmander into the game.
Källström is another crucial element to the team as, alongside Germany's Mesut Ozil, he produced the greatest number of assists in qualifying, across all groups.
Sweden's task is tough in a group containing hosts Ukraine and traditional powers England and France.
However, those last two certainly won't be taking the Swedes lightly.
Back in 1992 they were again considered the favourites in a group containing Sweden and Denmark but the Swedes came top and both England and France crashed out.