Ahead of England’s game against Sweden on Tuesday night, I have decided to do a scouting report on the opposition and hopefully tell you a little bit about how they will play. England go into the game as hot favourites following a 1-0 victory over the reigning World and European champions Spain on Saturday, while Sweden come to Wembley on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Scandanavian rivals Denmark on Friday night. However, that was only their third defeat in their last 13 away matches and the last five matches between the two sides have ended in a draw, the last one finishing 2-2 in the group stages of the 2006 World Cup (including this goal!).
The team for the match has already been confirmed by manager Erik Hamren, as they make five changes from their game against Denmark. Former Manchester City goalkeeeper Andreas Isaksson comes in for Johan Wiland, while in defence Blackburn left-back Martin Olsson replaces Behrang Safari and Celtic defender Daniel Majostorovic plays instead of West Brom centre-back Jonas Olsson. 35-year-old Anders Svensson is rested and in his place comes AZ Alkmaar defensive midfielder Pontus Wernbloom, and finally Rasmus Elm will play instead of Emir Bajrami.
Here are a few points about the Swedish team:
- Rasmus Elm is naturally a centre-midfielder and he is being asked to play on the right of a 4-2-3-1 (he is very similar to Jordan Henderson) and therefore will naturally come inside to his strongest position. He will look to play deeper than Larsson and I suspect he has been picked because of his defensive capabilites, so he can counter the attack-minded Leighton Baines, statistically one of the best attacking full-backs in Europe (or maybe Ashley Cole).
- On the other side of the attacking trio, Sebastian Larsson will also look to come inside on his stronger right foot and his crosses and set-pieces will be a problem for England to deal with. His inswinging deliveries will most likely be aimed towards Ibrahimovic or Elmander, both players with good heading ability and suspect he will see a lot of the ball.
- I believe that most of the Sweden’s attacks will come down their left hand side, a) because of Martin Olsson and Kim Kallstrom (explained in the next two points) and b) because they will look to attack England’s inexperienced full-back Kyle Walker. Walker is well-known for his offensive abilities but will have to prove his defensive skills on Tuesday night.
- Anyone who has watched Martin Olsson play for Blackburn knows just how attack-minded he is and in fact he used to play as a left-winger. He will look to attack the space vacated by the left-winger Larsson and Walker will have to watch out for this. He could be asked to rein in his attacking instincts however, should Capello opt for a 4-3-3 with Sturridge/Johnson on that side.
- Kim Kallstrom, the left-footed centre-midfielder, will also look to drift to the left and something to watch out for will be his diagonal crosses from deep aimed at (again) Ibrahimovic or Elmander. This is something very rare in the modern game (a non-offensive centre-midfielder drifting wide) and he will play a similar role to Charlie Adam at Blackpool and now Liverpool. Kallstrom will probably be given the task of playmaker, along with Larsson, as Elmander is not a true ‘No 10’ rather a second striker who will play much further up the field. The Lyon midfielder has been used to playing the defensive role with captain Anders Svensson in the side but he will have the holding midfielder Wernbloom, known for his tough tackling, next to him. Fabio Capello, the England manager, will probably hand Jack Rodwell the task of marking him, and this will be an interesting battle.
- (Watch out, as Elm could in fact start on the left and Larsson on the right)
- Many people believe that when Ibra plays, his team-mates feel they have to give him the ball every time they get it and so this makes their game predictable and him easy to mark. He is not a playmaker and their game would undoubtedly improve were they to spread it wide more or look to Larsson or Kallstrom to dictate the play.
- In a 4-2-3-1 formation, the lone front man should be able to combine the qualities of a pacy striker looking to get in behind the defence (eg. Javier Hernandez for Manchester United) and a deep-lying striker looking to get involved in the play (Wayne Rooney, David Villa) and the perfect examples of this are the two men fighting for the Real Madrid No 9 position, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain. Benzema has developed the ability to drop deep and combine with his team mates and Higuain is just as complete as the Frenchman. For this reason, I believe Ibrahimovic is not ideally suited to this role, and although he is by no means a target man, he is not a complete striker. The Swede usually plays alongside another striker in a 4-3-1-2 formation for Milan (Antonio Cassano, who unfortunately has a long-term injury/illness and so probably Robinho from now on) and Elmander is in a lot of ways similar to him.