Sweden Euro 2012 Focus – Hamren’s defensive woes lead to early exit

Sweden’s ignominious Euro 2012 comes to an end on Tuesday as Erik Hamren’s side face France in search of their first points of the tournament. After dispiriting defeats to Ukraine and England, a point against Les Bleus would be a marked improvement.

 The Scandinavians can still have a decisive say in the outcome of group D by preventing France from taking any points – a defeat for Laurent Blanc’s side and a victory for Ukraine would see the co-hosts leapfrog both England and France into first place, and if the Swedish victory was large enough, shunt France to third place behind England on goal difference. Is that, combined with professional and national pride, enough to motivate Sweden when they lack the more tangible prospect of progression dangling in front of the other three teams? Only time will tell.

Only after the France match has been and gone and the dust has settled over the tournament will the post-mortem on Sweden’s failure truly get underway. Perhaps to his credit, Hamren has attempted to shoulder much of the blame. Fox News quoted the Coach as saying: “If you want someone to take responsibility, then it’s me, if you wanted to hang someone, hang me,” a refreshingly mature approach when so many managers routinely look to blame for their own mistakes the pitch, the officials or whatever other scapegoat comes into their line of fire. There also appears little appetite for a change in Coach, suggesting Hamren will get the chance to lead Sweden to the World Cup in Brazil in two years’ time.

Hamren, quoted in the same Fox News article, insisted that Sweden’s performances had been better than their results indicated, which may well be the case except for within about 25 yards of their own goal. Defensively Sweden have been one of the most suspect sides of the entire competition. Still with a game to play Sweden have already conceded five goals – only the Republic of Ireland have conceded more – nine – and they have played an additional game. Denmark, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic have each also conceded five and only the latter progressed to the quarter-finals, a sure sign that Sweden must improve defensively in future tournaments.

Sweden can at least avoid the indignity of ending their participation in Euro 2012 without a single point, but the French looked irresistible against Ukraine, which does not bode well for Hamren’s already-creaky defence. Sweden have not yet truly faced a particularly powerful forward line – Ukraine’s Shevchenko was powered by the emotion of the occasion to a performance otherwise beyond him, while England were lacking Wayne Rooney. France can call upon Karim Benzema, supported by Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Jeremy Menez on the field, and Olivier Giroud, Hatem Ben Arfa and Florent Malouda from the bench. Coping with what Laurent Blanc will throw at them to guarantee progression would be a good start towards tightening up Sweden’s defence ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on England v Ukraine

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