Playoff Joy

Sweden sealed their place at Euro 2016 with a sweet playoff success against neighbours Denmark in November.

Captain and talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored from the spot to give his side a two-goal lead in the first leg but a late strike from Nicolai Jorgensen gave the Danes hope going back to Copenhagen.

Those hopes were to be dashed by the irrepressible Ibrahimovic, who capped an impressive brace with a sublime free-kick that sent Sweden into an unassailable lead in the second leg.

They conceded twice late on as Denmark rallied but Ibrahimovic had underlined his status as the big man for the big occasion.

That is what boss Erik Hamren will want from his star man this summer in France. The Paris St-Germain striker is the ace in Sweden’s pack, a goalscorer of extraordinary talent and the one truly world-class player in Hamren’s squad.

All of their Group E opponents will know that Ibrahimovic is capable of winning games almost single-handedly for Sweden.

Class Difference

The problem for Hamren is that his team are most likely going to be overly reliant on Ibrahimovic for inspiration at Euro 2016.

Furthermore, in their qualifying run, the Swedes could manage just two points from the four games played against Austria and Russia – the two teams that finished above them.

Four of their five victories came against group whipping boys Liechtenstein and Moldova.

Overcoming Denmark was essential for local bragging rights but this was a Danish side that had won only three games in their own qualifying section and, at times, looked hopelessly short on attacking ideas.

Hamren will be keenly aware that much more is going to be required from his team come June if they want to make progress.

Sweden begin against Republic of Ireland in Paris on June 13, a game they will view as a must-win given the calibre of opposition that follows.

Four days later they meet Italy in Toulouse before concluding their Group E journey against Belgium in Nice on June 22.

Having fared poorly against stronger opposition in qualifying, Sweden will need to arrest that trend in France.

Last Chance

Hamren has confirmed he will step down as Sweden boss when their interest in Euro 2016 ends. For some key members of his squad, this could also be a farewell to the major tournament stage.

Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson has passed his 34th birthday, a feat also achieved by centre-back Mikael Antonsson as well as strikers Johan Elmander and Ibrahimovic.

Among the other prominent squad members to have hit the 30-mark are Andreas Granqvist, Sebastian Larsson, Kim Kallstrom and Erkan Zengin.

Of course, this also means Hamren has a squad laced with experience and players determined to make the most of their remaining time on the grand stage.

Winger Zengin struck three goals during qualifying while Panathinaikos frontman Marcus Berg was on target twice. The burden of goalscoring responsibility rests primarily on Ibrahimovic though – he weighed in with 11 in qualification.

There is promise in some of Sweden’s up-and-coming stars, with RB Leipzig winger Emil Forsberg and Celta Vigo striker John Guidetti springing to mind. These are players for whom the chance to play alongside Ibrahimovic in major tournament football is a life’s dream.

With Zlatan in their side, anything remains possible, but Sweden must prove their ability to overcome meaningful opposition if they are to impress in France.


Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (Kasimpasa), Robin Olsen (Copenhagen), Patrik Carlgren (AIK)

Defenders: Ludwig Augustinsson (Copenhagen), Erik Johansson (Copenhagen), Pontus Jansson (Torino), Victor Lindelof (Benfica) Andreas Granqvist (Krasnodar), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Martin Olsson (Norwich)

Midfielders: Jimmy Durmaz (Olympiakos), Albin Ekdal (Hamburg), Oscar Hiljemark (Palermo), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Erkan Zengin (Trabzonspor), Oscar Lewicki (Malmo), Emil Forsberg (Leipzig), Kim Kallstrom (Grasshoppers)

Forwards: Marcus Berg (Panathinaikos), John Guidetti (Celta Vigo), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris), Emir Kujovic (Norrkoping)

Team Profile

Number of European Championship Appearances 6
Best European Championship Performance Semi-finals (1992)
Number of European Championship Titles 0
Qualifying Form Played: 10 Won: 5 Drawn: 3 Lost: 2
Coach Erik Hamren – appointed September 2010
Trophies 0
Most Capped Player Andreas Isaksson (current), Anders Svensson (all-time)
Key Player at Euro 2016 Zlatan Ibrahimovic