After earning a draw against France in their first game of the tournament, England face Sweden in a crucial encounter in Kiev today, as both the teams chase their first win in Group D.
Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions earned a creditable 1-1 draw in their opener against France, but the Swedes slipped to a 2-1 defeat by co-hosts Ukraine. Hodgson is expecting a tough examination of his side in the Olympic Stadium but will not be looking to radically revamp his side. “There won’t be wholesale changes, that’s for certain because we don’t have any injury problems and the players who did well against France are all hoping to get picked to play again,” he said.
Sweden coach Erik Hamren is expecting more from his side following their opening defeat at the Olympic Stadium. He said: “We’re not reaching the level we want to and that’s my responsibility as a coach. We didn’t show the courage we were supposed to. Only five or six players did. We all need all the players doing that. We were cowards in the first half and should have done more. I’m not happy with the team, I was expecting more.”
For Sweden, striker Johan Elmander recovered from a fractured metatarsal to feature as a second-half substitute in the defeat to Ukraine and coach Hamren could be tempted to start the former Bolton star as he searches for a win. West Brom defender Jonas Olsson is expected to be recalled at centre-back, with Andreas Granqvist switched to right-back.
Skipper Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker are set to continue in England’s midfield after recovering from the clash with France, while Glen Johnson remains on antibiotics for a toe infection. But the Three Lions will be without star striker Wayne Rooney, who serves the final game of his two-match suspension following his dismissal in Montenegro last October. Liverpool’s Martin Kelly is likely to be their only other absentee as he struggles to recover from a virus.
Played – 21
Sweden Wins – 6
Draws – 9
England Wins – 6
Sweden – LWWWL
11-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden
05-Jun-12 – Friendly – Sweden 2-1 Serbia
30-May-12 – Friendly – Sweden 3-2 Iceland
01-Mar-12 – Friendly – Croatia 1-3 Sweden
16-Nov-12 – Friendly – England 1-0 Sweden
England – DWWLW
11-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – France 1-1 England
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – England 1-0 Belgium
27-May-12 – Friendly – Norway 0-1 England
01-Mar-12 – Friendly – England 2-3 Netherlands
16-Nov-12 – Friendly – England 1-0 Sweden
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)
The whole country will be looking up to Ibrahimovic to have a good game after recovering from a slight ankle injury. The AC Milan striker did score against Ukraine on Monday but it wasn’t enough as Andriy Shevchenko scored twice for the co-hosts. Presence of Ibrahimovic will cause headaches to the England back four especially John Terry and Joleon Lescott. His ability to shoot accurately and to come out of strong in physical battles with the defenders will be the major threat for England.
Olof Mellberg (Sweden)
Everyone knows about Sweden’s reliance on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and he was the team’s best man against Ukraine. It’s the AC Milan striker’s team-mates that must improve and the vastly experienced Mellberg is the leader of the pack in defence. The former Aston Villa defender will not have to cope with Wayne Rooney but Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young will be raring to go after receiving very less opportunities against France.
Steven Gerrard (England)
Steven Gerrard was England’s best man on the pitch against France the other day and he delivered the important freekick which was headed in past Hugo Lloris by Joleon Lescott to give England the lead. Hodgson will want his side to take more control of this game against the Swedes after a defensive display against France and Gerrard will be expecting play a more advance role than he did against Les Bleus. He will be England main creator from the center of the mindfield and will hoping to dictate the game himself.
Joe Hart (England)
The Manchester City shot-stopper showed some nerves early on in the game against France but once he settled in he made some superb saves to deny Les Bleus the win. His save of Alou Diarra’s powerful headed from a Samir Nasri freekick in the first half was so far the best save of the tournament. His good form this year for both City and England means that it will need a special effort from the Sweden players and especially Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who is Sweden’s main man in front of goal – to get on the score sheet.
Sweden (4-4-2): Andreas Isaksson; Andreas Granqvist, Jonas Olsson, Olof Mellberg, Martin Olsson; Seb Larsson, Rasmus Elm, Kim Kallstrom, Olo Toivonen; Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C), Johan Elmander.
A couple of changes are expected in the Sweden side that lost to Ukraine four days ago in Kiev. Striker Johan Elmander is back to full fitness and will start alongside Ibrahimovic in attack instead of the ineffective Markus Rosenberg. The midfield will be be the same with Seb Larsson and Olo Toivonen on the wings, while Kim Kallstrom and Rasmus Elm in the center. West Brom’s Jonas Olsson might be called in the starting XI alongside Olof Mellberg in place Mikael Lustig, with Andreas Granqvist moving to the right. Martin Olsson will play on the left of the back four, while Andreas Isaksson will remain in goal as Sweden look to register a much needed win.
England (4-4-2): Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Ashely Cole; James Milner, Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard (C), Ashley Young; Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck.
During the pre-match press conference, Roy Hodgson said he won’t be making wholesale of changes to his side that drew against France. The papers in UK are reporting that Andy Carroll will start today in place of the 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Liverpool hitman will play alongside Danny Welbeck, while Ashley Young – who was not so effective against France – will be moved on to the left side. James Milner will play on the right with Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard in the center of the midfield. The back four will be the same, as all are fit and raring to go. The inform Joe Hart will be in between the sticks for the Three Lions, as they look to move a step closer to qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Sweden 11/4 Draw 23/10 England 21/20
This is a crucial game for both the teams, as they have to win to move a step closer towards qualification. England played defensively against France to earn a point, while Sweden were stunned by Ukraine. The England players will like to forget the previous game and play some attacking football to win the game. It won’t be easy though, against the Swedes who have a very good record against the Three Lions in competitive matches. Steven Gerrard will be the key for England, as he will look to create opportunities for his teammates. On the other hand, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the man for Sweden, and a constant threat for England to deal with. He may even get a goal today but won’t be enough in the end.
Predicted Score – Sweden 1-2 England