Perhaps it was the absence of their beloved Zlatan and the lack of goals which combined to provoke the Malmo crowd into booing the Swedish side on Monday night but Celtic defender Mikael Lustig is certain the fans and team will unite for the Euros.
Whistles and boos greeted the final whistle at the Swedbank Stadium where Slovenia held an uninspiring home side scoreless just a fortnight before their Group E opener against Ireland.
Operating without Ibrahimovic blunted Sweden’s attacking artillery and, while he’s in line to feature in the send-off friendly with Wales on Sunday, public confidence in the rest of the bunch to progress from the group that also includes Italy and Belgium remains questionable.
“It’s never fun for sections of the crowd to be booing, especially now just before the European Championship,” explained the right-back, who alleviated doubts about an ongoing ankle injury by playing 45 minutes.
“You don’t like hearing boos. We want to be united going to France by doing it together with the fans. I think the support will get better as we get closer to the Euros, I’m sure of that.”
The Bhoys full-back admitted the absence of Ibrahimovic, enforced through a slight calf problem, contributed to the reaction at full-time.
“Many people came to see a world star but it was not possible for Zlatan to play due to injury,” he said. “Of course, that was a disappointment to them.”
Sunderland’s Seb Larsson wasn’t so sympathetic to the fanbase, insisting the game was designed to afford players like him lacking in match fitness some game-time.
“I don’t know what people expect from this kind of match,” he asserted. “All that’s of interest really is that we perform at the Euros.”
Evidence was provided on Monday, if it were needed, that Ibrahimovic’s influence will be uppermost in shaping how Sweden do actually perform.
Stuck in a straitened 4-4-2 formation, creativity was in short supply, emphasising the pressure on the Swedes to complete their preparations on Sunday in Stockholm with a vast improvement against Wales.
Along with Ibrahimovic, Norwich City defender Martin Olsson should also return on Sunday having been rested since linking up with the squad. Hamburg midfielder Albin Ekdal remains a fitness concern following the bizarre wound he picked up while celebrating his club’s avoidance of relegation from the Bundesliga. He was hospitalised after falling in a nightclub and lacerating his back on the glass table he landed on.
“It was good to give players their chance against Slovenia,” reasoned Hamren, who submitted his 23-man squad to Uefa last night. “All that was missing from Monday was the finishing. That can be the difference when we don’t have our world-class star.”
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