Euro 2016

Five football facts about Sweden ahead of Euro 2016

Five football facts about Sweden ahead of Euro 2016
Could Sweden win the Euro 2016? (probably not) Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Sweden has been drawn in Group E against Belgium, Italy and the Irish Republic in the European Championship. Here's what you need to know about coach Erik Hamrén's blue-and-yellow side.

1. They are Euro regulars

Sweden had never required qualifying to go to a European Championship finals until getting to Euro 2000. They reached the 1992 semi-finals after qualifying automatically as the host nation. However, they have now qualified for five consecutive editions of the continental showpiece, with their best show in that time an appearance in the quarter-finals in Portugal in 2004. On that occasion a 2-2 draw with Denmark in the final round of group games saw both Scandinavian nations advance from their group at the expense of Italy (who still remember…). The Swedes then lost on penalties to the Netherlands in the last eight.

Swedish fans after the infamous 2-2 draw with Denmark in 2004. Photo: AP Photo/Steven Governo

2. Poor record in knockout games

The Swedes have not won a knockout tie at a major tournament since the 1994 World Cup in the United States, when they finished third. They beat Saudi Arabia 3-1 in the last 16 and then needed penalties to beat Romania before losing 1-0 to eventual winners Brazil in the semi-finals. Since then, they have been beaten in the last 16 on each of their last two appearances at the World Cup, in 2002 and 2006. They have never won a knockout match at a European Championship, losing 3-2 to Germany as hosts at the semi-final stage in 1992 and then succumbing on penalties to the Dutch in 2004.

His face says it all. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

3. The World Cup 1958 'record'

Sweden are the only nation to lose the final of a World Cup as the host nation. In 1958 they were beaten 5-2 by the Brazil of Vava and Pele at the Råsunda Stadium despite captain Nils Liedholm giving them an early lead. The Brazilians were the runners-up as hosts in 1950, but while they lost out to Uruguay, their infamous defeat at the Maracana came in what turned out to be the deciding match in a round-robin group of four teams rather than an actual final.

Sweden and Brazil at Råsunda in 1958. Photo: AP

4. Zlatan. Zlatan. Zlatan.

While it might be unfair to call Sweden a one-man team, they are heavily reliant on the class of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Paris Saint-Germain striker is his country's all-time leading scorer with 62 international goals, surpassing Sven Rydell's mark of 49 goals, which stood for more than 80 years, in 2014. Ibrahimovic scored eight of Sweden's 15 goals in their qualifiying group and then got three in a 4-3 aggregate win against Denmark in the play-offs to qualify for France.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

5. Time for the under-21 champions to shine (again)

If Sweden were to win the Euros, they would emulate the achievement of their under-21 side, who were crowned European champions in the Czech Republic last year. Håkan Ericson's side sprang a surprise as they beat favourites Portugal 4-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the final in Prague. A team containing Benfica defender Victor Lindelöf and Celta Vigo striker John Guidetti had previously beaten Denmark 4-1 in the semi-finals as Sweden became European champions in the age group for the first time. Six of the reigning youth champions are present in the senior squad for this summer's tournament. 

John Guidetti, one of the young ones. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT