European U21 Championship 2015: Sweden Team Guide

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 13, 2015

European U21 Championship 2015: Sweden Team Guide

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    The 2015 European U21 Championship kicks off on June 17 in Prague, giving us football fans a welcome reprieve from tedious summer transfer links and a lack of competitive domestic football.

    This exciting tournament is where some of tomorrow's stars announce themselves, and the squads selected for it ooze class and quality. In 2013, Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Asier Illarramendi and more all shone as Spain decimated all before them, but who will catch the eye this year?

    B/R is previewing each of the eight nations competing, and we're continuing the series with Sweden.

    Links to the series:

    All statistics, fixture details and results via UEFA.com unless otherwise noted.

Road to the Finals

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    To say Sweden's results in qualifying were erratic would be to state the obvious; they couldn't seem to make their mind up over whether they were very good or very bad. Some horror losses countered big wins, and Hakan Ericson's men squeezed past both Poland and Greece by a single point to finish top.

    Results

    Sweden 3-1 Poland

    Turkey 2-2 Sweden

    Poland 2-0 Sweden

    Greece 5-1 Sweden

    Sweden 5-0 Malta

    Sweden 3-0 Greece

    Sweden 4-3 Turkey

    Frankly, Sweden looked finished after drawing France in the play-offs to reach the finals. Given Les Bleus' strength and the fact they were wheeling out the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbia, Aymeric Laporte, Giannelli Imbula and Florian Thauvin, no one really gave the Scandinavian outfit a chance.

    A 2-0 home win for France all but confirmed the expectations, but then the unthinkable occurred: Sweden won 4-1 in Halmstad in a chaotic second leg to progress 4-3 on aggregate.

Squad

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    UEFA.com's Jim Wirth confirmed Sweden's 23-man selection for the tournament on Twitter, expressing his surprise at rising star Arber Zeneli's inclusion.

    Here is the squad:

    Goalkeepers: Patrik Carlgren (AIK), Jacob Rinne (Orebro) and Andreas Linde (Molde).

    Defenders: Emil Krafth (Helsingborgs), Alexander Milosevic (Besiktas), Filip Helander (Malmo), Ludwig Augustinsson (Copenhagen), Oscar Lewicki (Malmo), Joseph Baffo (Halmstads), Sebastian Holmen (Elfsborg) and Pa Konate (Malmo).

    Midfielders: Oscar Hiljemark (PSV), Abdullah Khalilil (Mersin), Arber Zeneli (Elfsborg), Kristoffer Olsson (Midtjylland), Simon Tibbling (Groningen), Robinn Quaison (Palermo) and Simon Gustafsson (Hacken).

    Forwards: Branimir Hrgota (Monchengladbach), John Guidetti (Manchester City), Isaac Kiese Thelin (Bordeaux), Mikael Ishak (Randers) and Sam Larsson (Heerenveen).

Manager Profile: Hakan Ericson

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    Not one to do things quietly, Hakan Ericson has fallen out with a few players during his stint as manager of Sweden U21s so far. Mattias Johansson—a player who walks into this team as the best right-back if selected—is chief among those upset.

    However, his players have responded to his methods, and the picture above—snapped after the Scandinavian outfit's momentous victory over France in the play-offs—tells you all you need to know about how highly he's regarded.

    Sweden will play attacking football under his command, and he looks set to benefit from fielding several key players with points to prove: Branimir Hrgota wants more playing time for Gladbach, John Guidetti needs a new club and captain Oscar Hiljemark is hunting for an expanded role with PSV.

Star Player: John Guidetti

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    John Guidetti always steps up when he's needed, and Sweden U21s are in the fortunate position of having a star striker who is also playing for his next move.

    He won't be continuing at Celtic despite a productive loan spell there in 2014-15, and his contract with Manchester City will come to an end on June 30. As a soon-to-be free agent, he'll be gunning for goals in a bid to impress potential suitors.

    Sweden will start him up top, likely paired with the taller, stronger Isaac Kiese Thelin. It will be intriguing to see how the partnership functions and whether Guidetti's killer instinct transfers to this tournament.

One to Watch: Isaac Kiese Thelin

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    Isaac Kiese Thelin is your Swedish version of Harry Kane when it comes to storylines: He's shot from nowhere and made a big impact, particularly in the national setup.

    Already the holder of five senior caps, he's been somewhat misguidedly compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic (calm down, Sweden), although his strong frame and pronounced, technical skill set certainly fan the embers of hope.

    He's fancied to start alongside John Guidetti and play a key role for the Blagult, yet this tournament will be the first time many will have seen him play.

European Under-21 Championship Record

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    Sweden have never won the European Under-21 Championship, but they came closest in 1992 when they lost to Italy 2-1 over both legs of the final.

    They also troubled teams in 2009—their first run in the competition in several years—reaching the semi-finals and losing to England on penalties. It was the year of Marcus Berg.

    Team Record at the European Under-21 Championship

    Wins: 0

    Runners-up: 1

    Semi-finals: 3

    Quarter-finals: 2

    Group-stage finish: 0

    Failed to qualify: 13

Group Fixtures

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    Match 1: Italy vs. Sweden

    Venue: Andruv Stadion, Olomouc

    Date: June 18, 2015

    Time: 5 p.m. BST

    Match 2: Sweden vs. England

    Venue: Ander Stadium, Olomouc

    Date: June 21, 2015

    Time: 5 p.m. BST

    Match 3: Portugal vs. Sweden

    Venue: City Stadium, Uherske Hradiste

    Date: 24 June, 2015

    Time: 7:45 p.m.

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