Jun 15, 2012, 3:01 AM EDT
Friday’s second game is also the second competitive match of the Roy Hodgson era, the relatively new England manager having been on the job for less than two months. In that time the man who has gone from Fulham to West Brom to Liverpool to England in two years has already enforced his will on the squad. Monday’s draw with France was an unmistakably Hodgsonian performance.
With the draw against the nation England regards as its toughest Group D competition, feelings of trepidation have morphed into hope. Notoriously rabid in their overestimation of the Three Lions’ chances, the English press and public had muted expectations for Euro 2012. They had certainly justified losing to France, their group favorites. When England didn’t, Three Lions supporters allowed optimism to start creeping in.
Sweden’s traveling the opposite course. With recent wins at the Netherlands and Croatia, Erik Hamrén’s new look national team teased something more than mere qualification. With the team drawn into an evenly matched group, Sweden were seen as a potential surprise – a team that could do some damage.
That optimism faded on Monday, with Sweden giving up a lead to co-hosts Ukraine, losing what was supposed to be their easiest match. Now, old questions are popping up around captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Despite his scoring a goal and twice setting up teammates for potential equalizers, he was seen as having failed. He did not carry his team past Ukraine.
On Friday, Ibrahimovic gets another chance to redeem himself as well as assuage those resurfacing doubts, with England-Sweden set to kick off at 2:45 p.m. Eastern.
Here’s your playlist:
Side 2: England vs. Sweden
5. (Don’t Know How To) Come After You
After the result, the big story coming out of England’s opener was a their reluctance to attack. When you think about Roy Hodgson, it makes sense. His first things first attitude would have his team build from the back. Take care of your own end first. Once that’s done, they can start building an attack.
Monday made it clear the defense is in place. Now, how does England move forward?
A rumored move has big striker Andy Carroll coming into the team for Friday’s game, though that seems to a single game solution. Sweden gave up two goals through the air to Andriy Shevchenko. Carroll is a much greater threat with his head than the Ukrainian icon. He’ll likely pair up top with Danny Welbeck, the United speed merchant stretching the defense for his number nine.
6. Old limbs at our core
Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker were dead tired, but with few options on the bench, Hodgson may have no choice but ask his aged 31 and 32-year-old to push through the fatigue. Given the extent to which the duo was run down by France, three days rest may not be enough.
One option is to move James Milner into the middle. Milner’s fitness is beyond reproach, and with Ashley Young not needed up top (if Carroll and Welbeck start), there’s an extra winger available. If Young and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain start wide, Milner can play in the middle. If Hodgson gets two 45-minute shifts from first choice midfielders, England might not miss a beat.
7. Man of the hour
The idea that Sweden will live and die with Zlatan Ibrahimovic played out on Monday, to a certain extent. The Milan star scored Sweden’s opener but watched his defense quickly give up two. While Ibrahimovic had his moments trying to craft a goal for others, Sweden could be said to have lost because Zlatan couldn’t find a way. It’s a high standard – an unfair standard – but it may also be reality.
It’s important for Ibrahimovic to tune out those expectations. Carrying them on his shoulders in the past, Zlatan was left frustrated and, the times he struggled, even more criticized. Often showing his frustration on the field, a downturn in Ibrahimovic’s attitude radiates throughout the team.
If he stays focused and under control, Ibrahimovic will dictate this game just as he dictates most games. He doesn’t need to force it.
8. Who else?
There’s going to be a huge temptation for Zlatan to do it himself, mostly because he has no help. Johan Elmander is coming back from a toe injury, but as he showed on Monday, he’s not quite ready. Aside from midfielder Kim Kallstrom, nobody else in the team has a significant international goal scoring history, and Kallstrom’s is more a function of longevity than proclivity.
Erik Hamrén needs to find somebody who can augment Zlatan’s contributions. Maybe that’s PSV star Ola Toivonen. Maybe that’s a healthy Elmander. As we saw during the Lars Lagerbeck era, there’s only so far Sweden can go hoping Ibrahimovic does it all.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.
May 19, 2013, 5:50 PM EDT
With his eye on the imminent vacancy at Real Madrid left by Jose Mourinho’s almost certain departure, Paris Saint-Germain’s mastermind Carlo Ancelotti may now have a large hurdle to get past if he is to land his ideal job in Spain’s capital.
May 19, 2013, 5:34 PM EDT
Fernando Torres broke his Premier League scoring drought by banging home the game-winner to secure Chelsea a third place finish.
May 19, 2013, 5:22 PM EDT
Heartbreak in Serie A this year belongs to Fiorentina. Mario Balotelli converted a penalty in the 84th minute to draw level and two minutes later Philippe Mexes slotted home a cross to secure Europe’s top competition for AC Milan.
May 19, 2013, 5:01 PM EDT
Rare as they are, we’ve seen more than our share of “Olimpico” goals in MLS over the last pair of seasons, including one last night:
May 19, 2013, 4:47 PM EDT
With Arsenal and Tottenham the only teams battling for any meaningful positioning in the Premier League table, the final day still had implications for many teams in the form of placement prize money.
May 19, 2013, 4:28 PM EDT
Sir Alex Ferguson managed the final match of his career away from Old Trafford, and it looked set to complete on a high note, until the opposition had other ideas late.
May 19, 2013, 4:25 PM EDT
Another game-winning strike from Gareth Bale wasn’t enough to save Tottenham from more Champions League heartache.
May 19, 2013, 3:50 PM EDT
New York took all the points from the L.A. Galaxy on Tim Cahill’s late goal. So let’s talk about that goal.
May 19, 2013, 3:17 PM EDT
This Landon Donovan debate regarding his place on the national team is not going anywhere. So, did Sunday’s performance move the needle either way?
May 19, 2013, 2:42 PM EDT
Arsenal secured its 16th consecutive spot on the Champions League with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Newcastle at St. James’ Park on Sunday.
May 19, 2013, 1:43 PM EDT
Sensational news for fans around BMO Field:
May 19, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT
With David Beckham-esque tears streaming down my cheeks, we’re finally here: The final day of the 2012-13 Barclay’s Premier League.
May 19, 2013, 10:19 AM EDT
Newcastle have nothing to play for and have been a disaster at home of late, losing their last two matches at St. James’ Park by a combined 9-0.
May 19, 2013, 10:13 AM EDT
The timing on this thing in two words: pretty bad:
May 19, 2013, 9:32 AM EDT
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves on the 20-year-old goal-scoring sensation … :
May 19, 2013, 12:48 AM EDT
The Sounders exploit Dallas’ young back line in a meeting of two Western Conference teams in top form. Final score: 4-2 for the Sounders:
May 18, 2013, 11:41 PM EDT
Juan Agudelo makes his New England debut as Jay Heaps posts one of the best wins of his young coaching career:
May 18, 2013, 10:33 PM EDT
Highlights and context as “Jack Mac” scores his league-leading 8th goal:
May 18, 2013, 9:50 PM EDT
Cascadia Cup matches are always interesting, and Saturday’s 2-2 draw at BC Place was full of talking points:
May 18, 2013, 8:24 PM EDT
it was a big crowd pleaser on two fronts when the Whitecaps’ forward stroked an unstoppable free kick against Portland:
- Where Landon Donovan’s afternoon takes us in the ongoing U.S. national team debate 1
- Philadelphia’s Jack McInerney would be league’s youngest Golden Boot winner 0
- Talking points on Portland’s 2-2 draw with Vancouver 0
- PSG president confirms Saturday was likely David Beckham’s farewell match 3
- As Alex Ferguson says goodbye, Manchester United’s cupboard remains stocked 1
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