Sweden vs. England Euro 2012: 6 Key Battles to Watch in Group D Clash
The Euro 2012 steam train keeps on rolling as Group D rears its head for the second time this week.
Sweden play England on Friday June 15 at the Olympic Stadium, Kyiv—with kickoff set for 2.45pm Eastern.
With Sweden suffering a loss in their opener against co-hosts Ukraine and England held to a draw by France, both teams will be looking to get three points in the bag.
Here are six key battles to look for during the match.
Roy Hodgson vs. Erik Hamren
The art of winning a football match begins way before the referee's whistle is blown and the players take to the field.
Player knowledge, tactical nous, understanding form and team methodology are all part and parcel of creating a winning formula.
England coach Roy Hodgson got things defensively sound against France, but England lacked creativity in attack.
Sweden's Erik Hamren got things wrong when defending against Ukraine, but Sweden looked sharp on offense with the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
When Hamren and Hodgson lock horns on Friday, they had better have done their homework if they expect a result out of this game.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. John Terry and Joleon Lescott
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is almost a certain starter (injuries permitting) against England, and Roy Hodgson will likely field the same central defensive pairing—Joleon Lescott and John Terry—that started against France.
With so much of Sweden's attacking flair being channeled through Ibrahimovic, Lescott and Terry will really need to be on their toes in order to keep the AC Milan striker quiet.
Allowing him to turn and face the goal is a big no-no considering his ability to shoot or pass superbly in equal measure.
Keep Ibrahimovic quiet and a large portion of Sweden's offensive threat goes quiet with him.
Kim Kallstrom vs. Scott Parker
Often the feeder of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's strikes is Kim Kallstrom.
The left-footed wizard has been on fire in Euro 2012 qualification, scoring three goals and racking up seven assists in his 10 appearances.
It's no surprise that Kallstrom was the provider for Ibrahimovic's opening goal against Ukraine in Monday's defeat, and he will be looking to do similar damage to England.
Scott Parker looked jaded towards the end of England's game against France, but he knows that tiredness is not a luxury that he can afford when shielding England's back line.
Rasmus Elm vs. Steven Gerrard
The attacking impetus of both nations will sway with the pressure these two players can put on the opposing defenders.
Elm is seen as a midfielder who provides a similar service to Gerrard, albeit it a slightly more low-profile one.
Whoever can establish their authority soonest could determine who holds sway in the Olympic Stadium.
Martin Olsson and Mikael Lustig vs. Ashley Young and Theo Walcott
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain not enjoying the most memorable of displays against France, I would expect Roy Hodgson to introduce Theo Walcott in his stead for the game against Sweden.
If Young and Walcott are placed on the wings, they will prove a stern test for the likes of Martin Olsson and Mikael Lustig at fullback.
England have some pacy wingers available. Let's see if they utilize them.
Olof Mellberg vs. Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck proved to be England's brightest spark against France, so he would naturally feel aggrieved should he not get the nod against Sweden.
Former Aston Villa favourite Olof Mellberg will be the brick wall he has to bypass in order to make his mark in the tournament.
At 34 years of age, Mellberg is likely to revert to experience when facing the task of marking the inexperienced 21-year-old Welbeck—a player who failed to register a single shot on goal against France.
It will be a classic matchup that either could win.
Who do you think should start for England against Sweden? Post your comments below and be sure to follow me on Twitter @petercwebster where I post all my B/R content.