Sweden World Cup PreviewPosted: Monday May 27, 2002 7:21 PM
How they line up
CO-COACHES Lars Lagerback and Tommy Soderberg will stick to their trusted 4-4-2 system, in which a zonal defense and a tightly-knit midfield try to put pressure on opponents as early as possible. A lack of a genuine midfield orchestrator will be compensated by active wing-play.
Magnus Hedman will start in goal, in spite of a patchy season with Coventry. Sweden simply have no one else with Hedman's ability, even though youngster Andreas Isaksson is catching up fast. Either he or the more experienced Magnus Kihlstedt will take the second goalkeeping spot.
It is vital that captain Patrik Andersson returns in time from his knee injury. He is an absolutely key figure, whose partnership with Celtic's Johan Mjallby guarantees solidity. Olof Mellberg starts at right-back or, if Andersson cannot make it, will take over his preferred role at stopper. He may lack Andersson's brain, but provides energy and power and will venture upfield when he can. Michael Svensson is a steady deputy.
The pacy Christoffer Andersson gives cover for Mellberg on the right, although he is prone to defensive lapses.
Erik Edman's recent loss of form could well pave the way for Teddy Lucic or even the veteran Pontus Kamark at left-back. Neither is a natural left-footer, but both have bags of experience and can operate in various positions.
Tobias Linderoth impressed as midfield anchor during the qualifying stage. However, his recent move to Everton has affected his form, allowing Hansa Rostock's Marcus Lantz to come into contention for the position. Hakan Mild will be in the squad if he recovers from a groin injury.
Sweden like to attack down the flanks. Niclas Alexandersson produces clever runs and sharp crosses on the right; Fredrik Ljungberg is expected to make incisive bursts from the left. Magnus Svensson, often used as cover for Ljungberg, also has a useful touch.
But is there enough flair and imagination? Soderberg and Lagerback may have lost their faith in talented but one-paced Daniel Andersson. Anders Svensson, for all his goals and shooting ability, is a support player rather than a director. However, his linking with Ljungberg could still prove fruitful.
In attack, Sweden will rely on proven goal-getters Henrik Larsson and Marcus Allback. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the joker in the pack. He can excite with his ability to take on players, and his unpredictability can cause problems for defenders. But so far he hasn't been able to forge a working partnership with either Allback or Larsson. Stefan Selakovic appears to have overtaken Andreas Andersson in the substitutes' pecking order after making a good start with Dutch club Heerenveen.
From World Soccer magazine.