Euro 2012 guide: Sweden

KEY PLAYER: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

KEY PLAYER: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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SWEDEN finished as best group runner-ip in qualifying after an excellent performance in their 3-2 victory over Holland in their last group game.

Along the way they scored 31 goals in 10 games having changed to much more attacking approach rather than relying on defensive organisation that has seen them qualify for numerous tournaments down the years. Qualifying from their group will prove difficult and a lot will depend on captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, even if there’s been suggestions that Sweden play better without him.

Coach

Erik Hamren took over in 2009 after Sweden failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Since then, and despite some poor results (losing 4-1 to Holland and 2-1 to Hungary), there is now more optimism about a side that Hamren has focusing on attack rather than the tactical discipline of past teams.

Key player

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is by far his country’s best player but not always at his best for his country. He divides opinion in the country; there are those who like him for his outstanding talent whiles there are those who hate the way he often seems like he’s playing for himself. In tactical terms Ibrahimovic might be playing in a slightly different position in June. He produced an outstanding performance against Croatia in February when he was asked to play in a deeper playmaking role giving him more influence over the side.

One to watch

A midfielder with good passing ability and a threat from free kicks, Rasmus Elm offers the Swedes versatility in midfield. Elm, who plays for AZ Alkmaar, will be in competition for a place to the left of midfield but may get the nod because of his understanding with Ibrahimovic.

Why they could have a good tournament...

They have a group of good youngsters coming through with players such as Elm, Emir Bajrami and Ola Toivonen who played together for a good Sweden U21 side in 2009. The coach’s attacking style suits those players while Ibrahimovic could flourish playing deeper with a lot of attackers in front of him. Sweden will be counting on beating Ukraine, and with their good record against England recently, may get enough points to see them through.

Why they could have a bad tournament...

While the team’s attacking style has brought more optimism to Sweden fans they have a softer centre than in recent years. They have young talented players coming through, but this may be a tournament too soon for a team that still looks like it’s in transition.