More than an exhibition – Swe vs Eng preview

The third meeting between Sweden and England over the past year. We’ve been here before and then some. But importance does this game have for Sweden?

Saša Ibrulj reports from Stockholm…

Is there anyone who likes international friendlies at this time of the year?

We are five months away from the next competitive match, in the middle of almost every season in leagues across Europe, and where nothing counts.

Still, England’s visit to Stockholm today is special. Not just because of the fact that the Råsunda era is over and the new stadium is here, but because Hamren’s guys have the opportunity to use the point secured in Berlin to take the atmosphere to another level.

It may not have been a great year, but 2012 was certainly fun. It all started in Zagreb with Zlatan in a new role and the hope that this could elevate Sweden to a higher level. Unfortunately, that positional move meant that Sweden overlooked some of the simple things – something that Iceland and Serbia pre-Euro 2012 matches showed us. Things like marking, which was what cost Sweden two cheap goals against Ukraine and ultimately reaching the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

The summer in Ukraine left that bitter sweet taste – there was pride in the fighting spirit that Sweden had, especially after the France match, but at the same time there was sadness (or better still, anger) with the final result and the fact that Sweden dropped a place in the final eight of the tournament that easily.

Those same feelings dominated the beginning of the road to Brazil.

Sweden did not impress, and what’s more, they were so bad against Iceland and Faroe Islands, but this time the result was there and there was nothing to protest against. However, destiny decided to interfere and make things more interesting.

The comeback in Berlin is not important just for the history books. It could be very important to Hamren and his squad. That match should be used as the wind at the backs of this generation – in Berlin the players regained the confidence from the fans, but now they need to keep it and create an increased positive atmosphere before next year and the remainder of the qualification.

The England is perfect for that. Let’s not fool ourselves, we can’t expect them to play at 100% tonight; it is a friendly in the middle of nothing. But this match should be more than just an exhibition and the opening ceremony for the new arena. It should be the proof that Hamren and his boys are on the right way.


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