While Martin O’Neill will wait another three weeks to finalise his Euro squad, Sweden boss Erik Hamren made the big decisions early by announcing his 23-man panel yesterday.
Ireland’s opponents for their opener on June 13 in Paris have undergone a degree of transition by integrating some of their U21 Euro champions into the set-up, culminating in veteran West Brom defender Jonas Olsson missing the cut for France.
A total of six graduates from last year’s U21 triumph are included, amongst them former Manchester City and Celtic striker John Guidetti, currently playing in Spain for Celta Vigo.
Guidetti could partner captain and talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack, yet the star of domestic football, Emir Kujovic, is also in contention after making an impact since earning his first senior call-up in November for the play-off victory over Denmark.
Kujovic, top scorer for last year’s surprise Allsvenskan champions IFK Norrkoping, said: “I’m going to France wanting to play. I know that I’m competing with great players but I have confidence and believe in myself.”
“I picked the squad which I believe will do the best job at the Euros,” explained Hamren. “Some of the players that played many games during qualifying didn’t make it because there were difficult decisions. I was impressed with some of the younger players in the friendlies since we qualified and they deserved to be selected.”
His easiest task was choosing Ibrahimovic, with the manager admitting Sweden’s prospects of advancing from the pool that also features Italy and Belgium rests on the shoulders of their only “world-class” player.
“We aim to progress from the group but must be realistic because we are the lowest ranked team,” Hamren reasoned. “To achieve progress, there cannot be anything less than 100% performance from my players. We all know Zlatan can be our match-winner.”
O’Neill seems to be already getting the rub of the green by having some of his walking wounded recovering from injury in tandem with his opponents’ enduring their own fitness troubles.
Italian duo Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti are ruled out of the tournament, as is Belgium captain Vincent Kompany, and now the Swedes risk losing one of their star turns following a freak accident.
Albin Ekdal was supposed to be enjoying himself partying at the weekend after helping Hamburg avoid relegation from the Bundesliga only to suffer a laceration to his back after falling on a nightclub table.
“The doctors’ prognosis is positive,” the 26-year-old casualty said. “I’m going to stay here for a couple more days to keep the situation under control.”
Sweden will play two friendlies after they assemble in Stockholm on May 23. Hamren takes his squad to Malmo to face Slovenia on Monday, May 30 before they host their farewell outing at the Friends Arena on Sunday, June 5 against Wales.
From there, they head to France on June 8, where they’ll stage their final preparations in the coastal town of Saint-Nazaire on the west coast before switching to Paris on the eve of their first Group E fixture against Ireland.
Sweden squad — Goalkeepers:
Andreas Isaksson (Kasimpasa), Robin Olsen (København), Patrik Carlgren (AIK).
Ludwig Augustinsson (København), Erik Johansson (København), Pontus Jansson (Torino), Victor Lindelof (Benfica) Andreas Granqvist (Krasnodar), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Martin Olsson (Norwich).
Jimmy Durmaz (Olympiakos), Albin Ekdal (Hamburg), Oscar Hiljemark (Palermo), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moskva), Erkan Zengin (Trabzonspor), Oscar Lewicki (Malmo), Emil Forsberg (Leipzig), Kim Källström (Grasshoppers).
Marcus Berg (Panathinaikos), John Guidetti (Celta), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St Germain), Emir Kujovic (Norrköping).
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