England aiming to break hoodoo against Scandinavians.
Not even former England coach Sven Goran Eriksson, who hails from a Torsby, a locality in south-west Sweden, can claim to have had as big an impact on Swedish football as the Three Lions current boss, Roy Hodgson.
Between 1976 and 1990, a fresh-faced Hodgson won seven league titles during spells in charge of Halmstad and Malmo, helping to change the very nature of football coaching in the Scandinavian country during that time.
Defensive solidarity, mental strength and organisation were trademarks of his title-winning sides, all of which were evident as England gained a credible 1-1 draw with France in group D’s opener.
Now it is Hodgson’s job to break a sequence of seven consecutive competitive games without a win against the Swedes, a run that stretches back to 1988.
The reality that a draw is unlikely to be good enough for Sweden will only make Hogdson’s job harder. Erik Hamren’s side lost 2-1 to Ukraine in their opening match, a defeat he described as the worst moment of his career and another to England would likely see them become the second side to exit the tournament.
While England remain without their talismanic striker, Wayne Rooney, Sweden’s, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, already has a goal to his name and will undoubtedly be the biggest threat to England’s new-found defensive discipline.
Prediction: 1-1, these two sides always seem to draw.
Story so far: Roy Hodgson’s men battled to a credible 1-1 draw against France, taking the lead and outplaying their cheese-loving neighbours for long periods. Encouraging.
Team news: The British media can’t resist leaking team news, so we already know to expect: Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Young; Welbeck; Carroll.
One to watch: Danny Welbeck. The young Manchester United striker impressed against the French, running intelligently and tirelessly. Despite being the obvious man to give way for Andy Carroll, he has deservedly kept his place. Hopefully there is even more to come from the 21-year-old.
Soundbite: “They are organised as a result of years of work based on English coaching.” There’s more than one reason, then, to blame England boss Roy Hodgson, who started his managerial career with Halmstad, if Sweden keep a clean sheet.
Stat attack: England have not beaten Sweden in the seven previous competitive meetings. No country has ever stayed unbeaten in eight against England.
What to expect: The addition of Andy Carroll has confirmed everyone’s worst suspicions…that Roy Hodgson really is turning England into the Stoke City of world football. Still, if it works, who are we to complain?
Story so far: Miserable. Beaten 2-1 by hosts Ukraine after an inspired second-half performance from a certain Andrei Shevchenko. On the bright side, Zlatan Ibrahimovich is already amongst the goals and if he has a good tournament, anything is possible.
Team news: No need to speculate, the Swedish team has already been confirmed as: Isaksson; Granqvist, Mellberg, J Olsson, M Olsson; Svensson, Källström, Larsson, Elm; Ibrahimovic; Elmander
One to watch: Ibra, of course. This afternoon, AC Milan confirmed that they had decided against selling him to mega-rich French side PSG. Judging on how he’s received the news, he could be either moody, petulant and disinterested or devastatingly good. Let’s hope he had his heart set on Paris…
Soundbite: “Their major weapon is Ibrahimovic – he is one of the best strikers in European football.” Roy Hodgson agrees with us.
Stat attack: Sweden have lost their last three European Championship finals matches – their worst run of defeats in tournament history.
What to expect: This is not a great Sweden side by any stretch of the imagination but there’s plenty of power up front in the form of Ibrahimovich and Yohan Elmander.
FANCY A FLUTTER?