This morning was the deadline for all Managers taking charge of teams in Euro 2012 to submit their final 23 man squads having had to tell two members of the provisional squad they would not be going to the tournament. Whilst there have been some surprises from managers particularly the inclusion of veteran Left Back Wilfred Bouma in the Netherlands squad and the decision from Laurent Blanc to leave Yoann Gourcuff out of the squad, there has also been a number of forced moves for example Italian coach Cesare Prandelli leaving out Domenico Criscito from his 23 man squad as a result of the ongoing investigation into the Calcioscommesse scandal in which Criscito is believed to be a part of. Sweden coach Erik Hamren has finalised his plans for Euro 2012 this morning by announcing the 23 man squad that he will lead into Ukraine and Poland for this summer’s tournament.
Decisions for Hamren
Whilst much of the Swedish squad announcement was routine with Sebastian Larsson, Kim Kallstrom and the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic all being selected there was much debate as to whether Galatasaray’s Johan Elmander would make the squad amidst significant fears of his fitness. Elmander fell victim to the customary pre International tournament metatarsal scare in the season climax at Galatasaray in which his twelve goals helped fire the former European powerhouses to the title, a suspected fracture of the metatarsal in Elmander’s right foot caused headaches for both Erik Hamren and the Swedish medical team with the latter sweating over whether or not they could help him be ready for the tournament opener against tournament co-hosts Ukraine on June 11th. Hamren this morning to the surprise of many in Sweden included Elmander in the final 23 man squad citing that tests on the former Bolton Wanderers striker’s foot had proven to him that Elmander would indeed be at a high enough level of fitness to take part in the fixture against Ukraine. Whilst this was good news for Sweden there was also some negative with the inform Feyenoord hit man John Guidetti being omitted from the final squad as a result of an infection suffered by the Manchester City Loanee. This was particularly disappointing and disruptive to coach Hamren’s plans with the twenty year old expected to play a key role for Sweden in Ukraine and Poland after a season which saw him score twenty goals in twenty three appearances for Feyenoord in all competitions including a superb hat trick against fierce rivals and eventual title winners Ajax.
In recent years there has been a misconception throughout Europe that Sweden are simply a one man team who rely heavily on the individual brilliant of Zlatan Ibrahimovic with many citing Sweden’s failure to qualify for the 201o World Cup in South Africa as evidence to support this view. However it is simply not the case which we can see by looking at the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign which saw Sweden win eight out of their ten games and assuring their place in the tournament as best runners up. Sweden a one man team they may not be but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still the key man with five goals in the qualifying campaign it is expected that if he performs well this summer then so will the Swedes as a team. Ibrahimovic has spoken of his delight with Hamren’s attacking coaching philosophy with Sweden now looking to dominate games through keeping possession and making chances rather than the defensive counter attacking displays often seen by Sweden under previous head coach Lars Lagerback. Zlatan will also be aided by the prospect of playing in a forward pairing with either Johan Elmander or Ola Toivonen. Zlatan appears to be happy with the Sweden set up currently and has embraced his role as captain with pride and maturity something which many saw him to not be capable of. Another of the key men for Sweden this summer is none other than Sunderland’s creative midfielder Sebastian Larsson, after what can only be described as a solid first season on Wearside the former Birmingham man is hoping to build on this form in the summer, with his set pieces expected to cause opponents numerous problems. Not only does he have fantastic set piece accuracy in his repertoire but also a fantastic eye for a pass which could prove crucial to Sweden’s chances of qualification to the knockout stages if Larsson can pick out the intelligent runs made by Ibrahimovic and Elmander/Toivonen. Finally Sweden possess two of Europe’s brightest young talents in the form of Rasmus Elm who has long been linked with a move to Manchester United and Blackburn’s wing back Martin Olsson. Elm again much like Larsson possesses fantastic creative attributes with his vision and passing ability making him one of the Dutch Eredivisie’s hottest properties alongside his nimble footed and balanced dribbling style, Olsson as many Premier League fans will testify is a speed merchant, so often in England has he kept Blackburn from being torn apart on the wings with his ability to keep up with and then tackle the quickest of wide men, en example of Olsson’s quality could be seen at the fixture between Blackburn and Manchester United at Ewood Park near the end of the season with Olsson stopping the inform Antonio Valencia from creating chances for much of the match until Valencia’s wonder strike from an impossible angle. I fully expect Olsson to be Sweden’s starting left back and could well be key in aiding Sweden’s charge to the knockout stages in particularly in the fixtures against France and England where he will have to keep Franck Ribery and Ashley Young at bay.
Here is the full 23 man Swedish Squad list along with their positions and their domestic clubs.
Goalkeepers: Par Hansson (Helsingborgs), Andreas Isaksson (PSV Eindhoven), Johan Wiland (Copenhagen).
Defenders: Mikael Antonsson (Bologna), Andreas Granqvist (Genoa), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Olof Mellberg (Olympiacos), Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich), Martin Olsson (Blackburn), Behrang Safari (Anderlecht).
Midfielders: Emir Bajrami (Twente), Rasmus Elm (Alkmaar), Samuel Holmen (Istanbul BB), Kim Kallstrom (Lyon), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Christian Wilhelmsson (Al Hilal).
Forwards: Johan Elmander (Galatasaray), Tobias Hysen (IFK Gothenburg), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Milan), Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen), Ola Toivonen (PSV Eindhoven).