Olof Mellberg-Probably Sweden’s best defender with bags of experience and always a steady head at centre-back having amassed over 70 caps for his nation scoring 4 goals. Well known to followers of the Premier League, the 31 year-old’s best assets are undoubtedly his ability to read the game and his leadership qualities, having been captain of the Swedish national team for 4 years between 2002 and 2006, making him a wily veteran and potentially a match for any top striker in Europe at the upcoming tournament.
His long standing spell of 7 years at Aston Villa came to an end this season with the Swede moving to Serie A giants Juventus on a free transfer after the tournament. Mellberg has grown in stature since his move from Racing Santander in July 2001 and has cemented his place as a regular and main-stay in the Aston Villa team over the past few seasons. His move to Juventus is not a real surprise as he is still a top class defender with much to offer to any team. If he can keep the Swedish defence, consisting of a healthy balance of relative youth and experience with names such as Mikael Nilsson of Panathinaikos (null) and Andreas Granqvist (null) formerly of Wigan Athletic and now plying his trade back in his native homeland at Helsingborg, a solid unit this campaign, they will be a tough team to break down and potentially an outside bet for the tournament.
Kim Kallstrom- Potentially a match-winner for Sweden, the Olympique Lyonnais midfielder is definitely one to watch at Euro 2008. In the same mould as players such as Steven Gerrard, this supremely gifted left-footer,with a good eye for goal looks to drive forward when ever possible to support attacks and can provide plenty of goals from midfield. Although still relatively young at 25, Kallstrom was first capped in 2001 against Finland and since then has played 55 times for Sweden scoring 7 goals. He moved to French football in 2003 when he signed for Rennes from BK Hacken and has gone from strength to strength, establishing himself as one of the top upcoming players in Europe. He has been a regular this season for Lyon in both Ligue 1 and the Champions League, only missing 1 game in ‘Le Championnat’ scoring 9 goals in all competitions. The 25-year old has attracted attention from several teams in the Premier League and has been linked with a move to Everton and Tottenham Hotspur so Euro 2008 is a chance for him to showcase his talent at the highest level and put himself at the top of many manager’s wish-lists in the summer across Europe.
The Rest of the Swedish Midfield- Kallstrom is also surrounded by experienced players in the Swedish midfield for the tournament. Out of the entire midfield this time around for Sweden, only Daniel Andersson, currently of Malmo has not played in the Premier League. One man that on his day can terrorise defences and create opportunities for the attack is the captain, 31 year- old Freddie Ljungberg. The former Arsenal man may have been blighted by injury from time to time but is a tricky player and having represented Sweden at the last 4 major tournaments , as well as having played for his country for a decade, he knows what its like to play in pressure situations. He has an exceptional first touch and his all-round game is still up there with the best although is perhaps losing a yard of pace as he gets older.
Tobias Linderoth is the holding man for the Swedish team and the player that will allow Kallstrom to roam just behind the 2 strikers Ibrahimovic and Elmander. His influence on the team is one of good passing and of breaking up attacks. A player similar to Thomas Gravesen in terms of ability to break up possession for the opposition and distribute the ball to his teammates. Although only making 40 appearances for Everton in 3 seasons he was effective when called upon and did his job well. He is unquestionably a vital cog in the Swedish team that allows them to play their style of football.
A player we perhaps only saw glimpses of his true potential during his short run in the Premier League and which led to a quick exit is Christian Wilhelmsson. After signing for Bolton Wanderers on loan in January he never really settled at the club and has moved onto Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga. Wilhelmsson is however an attractive footballer who can play on either flank and has the qualities a good winger should have e.g. pace, dribbling and crossing. A player that can make opportunities for strikers and make life difficult for defenders.
Sebastian Larsson also made an impact in the Premier League for Birmingham City, despite being relegated. Known for his free kick taking expertise he also has a fierce shot on him as shown when the Blues travelled down to White Hart Lane, scoring a 35 yarder. Has come of age since leaving Arsenal in 2006 and can provide a goal or two if required from midfield. A player that can have an impact on a game but lacks international and major tournament experience having only collected 3 caps so perhaps this is a learning curve for the 22 year-old.
The other midfielders such as Niclas Alexandersson, Daniel Andersson and Anders Svensson are good squad players, with heaps of experience that can open up a defence. An asset to the squad.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic- No-one can question the undoubted talent that the Inter striker possesses but is often a temperamental player both for club and country. At times he can appear lazy and disinterested with the game and other times he looks like the best player in the world-thats what you get from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has had his fair share of spats with team-mates, managers and opposing players such as an incident in 2006 when he left the Sweden hotel after curfew, two nights before a Euro 2008 qualifier against Liechtenstein and was sent home by current manager Lars Lagerback for disregarding rules. Due to this he then refused to appear for the next couple of qualifiers.
Over 20 goals this year in Serie A for Inter Milan is a huge achievement in a league that prides itself on defending so Ibrahimovic is understandably hot property with Real Madrid being touted as potential investors of his services. Euro 2008 is a big tournament for Ibrahimovic and if he continues to find his feet in front of goal like he has done during this season then Sweden will pose a huge threat to any team in the tournament.
Henrik Larsson- Out of international retirement for the third time for Euro 2008 and will hope he can guide Sweden as fair as possible. One of the best strikers ever in Europe from his spell at Celtic, where he scored a phenomanal amount of goals and eventually at Barcelona where he won the Champions League. Can be used as an impact sub to combine the talents of Ibrahimovic with the attributes of Larsson in front of goal.
Johan Elmander-Toulouse striker who helped guide them into the Champions League last season although not past the group stages thanks to Liverpool. Has scored 11 goals in 32 games this season and has a good touch around the penalty area. Can form a prolific partnership with Ibrahimovic and can be a deadly threat.
The Manager-Lars Lagerback- Took over the sole coaching duties of Sweden in 2004 after being joint coach from 2000. Looks to have gone mainly with experience for Euro 2008 with many of the players having already experienced a major tournament and has done well to retrieve Henrik Larsson from international retirement for a third time and if the team can play to its full potential then the latter stages could await them.
- Three things we learned from Manchester United’s win at Brighton & Hove Albion
- Barcelona midfielder Arthur signs five-year contract with Juventus
- Former Arsenal star advises Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to leave the Gunners
- Everton and Liverpool Play Out a Goalless Snooze-fest at Goodison Park
- Valiant Villa Succumb to Chelsea’s Constant Pressure