Matches between Sweden and England are both numerous and well contested. The two sides have met in the last two World Cups, in qualifying for Euro 2000 and Euro ’92 as well as in qualifying for the 1990 World Cup. These matches have usually gone well for the Scandinavians, with England recording only one friendly victory since 1968. Continuing that run could determine Sweden’s continued participation at Euro 2012.
Perhaps the root cause of Sweden’s historic good form against England comes in the ideas that powered the tactics behind the teams. Sweden were often more English than the English. A series of managers left England and headed to the north, imparting on Swedish football the lessons they had learned in their home country. England manager Roy Hodgson was one such manager that made the move.
Hodgson was recommended for the manager’s post at Halmstad by Bob Houghton, then of Malmo but surely one of the game’s most widely travelled figures, taking in as far flung locations as Canada, Greece and India as well as Sweden. In Hodgson’s four years at Halmstad he delivered the league title twice, and then between 1985 and 1989 won the league in every season for Malmo. Indeed, Hodgson’s seven Allsvenskan titles are seven more than Sweden manager Erik Hamren has ever won.
Hamren himself has praised Hodgson for his contribution to the development of the tactical side in his homeland. The
Yet Hamren has moved away from the solid 4-4-2 that was laid down by Houghton, Hodgson and their ilk. Under Hamren, Sweden have most often employed the 4-2-3-1 that was seen against Ukraine, and the times the more rigid formation has reared its head, performances have been even worse than results. In fact, one of those occasions was the last time England and Sweden met, in a late 2011 friendly at Wembley. It was then that England recorded their only victory against Sweden in 44 years.
Sweden’s results in qualification speak louder than their result against Ukraine. The loss to the co-hosts is mitigated by a number of factors, most notably the loss of Johan Elmander. The striker was only able to contribute the final 20 minutes after a broken foot, and in his absence Markus Rosenberg did not step into the breach well enough. With a few more days training however, Elmander may be closer to match sharpness and ready to resume leading the line.
Despite finishing behind the Netherlands in qualification Sweden’s goal scoring was fierce, rattling in on average more than three goals a game and finishing only three points behind the Dutch. Sweden however were not quite at their best against the Ukrainians, perhaps overawed by the occasion. Facing a more familiar foe in a less intense setting could produce the best of the Blue and Yellows.
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