Group D: Sweden – Loveable Fans, Workmanlike Team

The Back of the Net team continue their build-up to Euro 2012 with individual team profiles. Here, Paul Watson takes a long loving look at Sweden…

No competition is complete without the relentlessly loveable Swedes there to grab a couple of workmanlike draws.

Past Competitions
With the exception of the 1950s, when any gathering of more than 20 people with a spherical object was recognised as a World Cup, Sweden were most successful in the early 1990s when they were semi-finalists at Euro 92 and USA 94.

Since the turn of the millennium, the Swedish story has been a much duller one punctuated by moments of astonishing lethargy, such as never getting round to filling in the entry forms for World Cup 2010.

Under rent-by-the-hour coach Lars Lagerbäck, Sweden were often accused of overly negative tactics; Lagerbäck controversially prevented the delivery of any match balls to Euro 2008, somewhat marring the group stages.

Swedo-English relations have always been healthy, with the exception of the years 1810-1812 during which the two nations went to war, both believing the other to be France. Swedish people are regarded as a pleasing novelty in the rest of Europe too. In Italy it is still common practice to keep a house Swede for daily tasks such as darning or spindling. This led to talented striker Kennet Andersson mistakenly spending three years in Bologna in the 1990s as a house servant to a wealthy Doge.

A sizeable contingent of Swedish fans are expected to travel to Ukraine, where they will playfully style their blonde hair, speak near-perfect English with a slight American accent and be generally loveable.

Man to Watch: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Throughout his career Ibrahimovic has been dogged by accusations that he can’t perform in big matches and although he scored 28 times for Milan last season, it has been pointed out that 26 of those goals came when his side were already 15-0 up in a dead rubber against Novara.

Indeed Ibra has always divided opinion. After his spectacular bicycle kick against Fiorentina he was slated for diving to try and win a penalty, his magnificent strike against Palermo was undermined by an angry reaction to being substituted and after his 30-yard rocket against Lecce, he was criticised for the 75 minutes he spent sitting in a deckchair on the halfway line.

The Swedes play in yellow and blue, which coincidentally are also the colours of their national flag. Sadly for the organisers of Euro 2012, Sweden’s first and second kits are identical to Ukraine’s. For the first time in recent history the group game between the two sides will have to be shirts v skins.

Did You Know?
Sweden has enjoyed a significant rise in tourism as a result of the success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Visitors have come from all over the world to see the offices of fictional journalist Mikael Blomkvist, with some paying to be murdered for mysterious reasons that become apparent very suddenly and unsatisfactorily.

More from Back of the Net
Group A: Poland • Russia • Greece • Czech Republic
Group B: Netherlands
• Germany • Portugal • Denmark
Group C: Spain • Italy • Croatia • Republic of Ireland
Group D: Ukraine • England • France • Sweden