Before the big game against Sweden tonight we have grabbed a few words with Swedish football fan Andy Hudson. Andy runs the excellent Blågul Fotboll website. Read Andy’s thoughts on the Swedish national team and where he sees a possible threat towards the French for tonight’s game.
You can also read our very own Andrew Gibney’s thoughts on France’s tournament so far on Andy’s site
Sum up the tournament for your team so far?
Well it’s all been rather terrible, hasn’t it? No points from the two games played and already eliminated – which I believe is the first time Sweden have entered their final match of a group stage without the chance to progress.
The pre-tournament optimism has been replaced by a hard reality that the defence needs quite a bit of work and that the forward players, and I include midfielders such as Ola Toivonen, Sebastian Larsson and Rasmus Elm in that there, aren’t as good as was first thought to compensate for the failings at the back.
That said, Zlatan Ibrahimović has been a bright light and has shown that he is a genuine part of the team – something that was hinted at before the tournament but had never been substantiated since his return from international retirement in 2010.
Who has impressed you in your team?
Olof Mellberg was fantastic against England and Kim Källström battled in the opening game and, alongside Anders Svensson, was tidy in the narrow defeat against England.
But the star player, the man who was the one bright spot in that opening shambles against Ukraine, has been Ibrahimović.
England fans say that Rooney is Zlatan’s equal but they are wrong. Zlatan has shown that he can work as part of a team and has been instrumental in keeping the Swedish squad together during a difficult tournament. He commands respect and the opposition are genuinely worried about him. Perhaps Rooney could be that player one day, but today is not that time. Rooney needs to show he can get over disciplinary issues and the feeling that he can ‘let his country’ down at any moment due to his petulant attitude. This is something the Zlatan of old had; the new Zlatan is much more reliable.
The Swedish star has been heavily linked with PSG during the tournament and the wealthy Parisian club see him as someone who can help attract other stars in Ligue 1 as they look to win the league next season. Zlatan will be looking for somewhere else to play his football next season and his first choice destination won’t be Paris.
Who has been the biggest disappointment in your team?
I predicted big things from Rasmus Elm prior to the tournament kick-off. So far I’ve been horribly wrong.
Elm has looked short on confident and gone is his usual zip and incisive passing. Elm was horribly exposed against a Ukrainian midfield that ran riot at times and swamped the central pairing he had with Källström. There was another disappointing performance against England when the key to victory was a strong team effort. Elm failed to threaten the midfield of the English.
There is still time to shine against France but will he keep his place in the side? The key to that is whether Johan Elmander starts. If he does then Ola Toivonen could find himself back on the left of midfield, or Erik Hamrén could look at Christian Wilhelmsson – the 32-year-old is hardly one for the future but has looked bright when called upon in the first two games.
I’ve already talked about Zlatan Ibrahimović, and without wanting to mention him too much more, he really is a player who can threaten France. Other than the captain, I’d say that Sweden will be a danger with their set pieces. The squad has height and the players capable of delivering perfect balls into the box. Both Larsson and Elm have a sublime delivery. But the final third play has to be threatening if set pieces are to be won in key areas. Elmander has struggled for fitness as he hasn’t recovered from the metatarsal break suffered on 12 May, with Galatasaray claiming that he wasn’t fit for any of the tournament. This has resulted in weaker hold up play than what has usually been expected of Sweden and has impacted their momentum going forward.
Sweden’s defensive frailties have been laid bare for the world to see. Jonas Olsson went into the tournament in possession of a centre-back shirt alongside Olof Mellberg, but Andreas Granqvist got the nod for the opening game. An injury to Mikael Lustig saw Granqvist shift to right-back against the English and Olsson returned to the middle. Regardless who has lined up alongside the Mellberg – who makes his final international appearance against France – there isn’t a cohesive understanding evident at the back and this is a big fear with the World Cup qualifiers approaching.
Martin Olsson looked bright against England with some intelligent running down the wing, and Lustig is capable of doing likewise on the right when he is match fit.
Despite a Swedish improvement in the last match, France surely have too much for Sweden, right? The French midfield and forward line will face better functioning defences than the Swedes currently have and should create a high number of chances. Though will the French be able to capitalise in the air? Whether they can or not, I predict Sweden to fall to a third consecutive defeat and leave Euro 2012 as one to definitely forget.
Sweden 1 France 3.