Return of Ibra Not Enough for Sweden

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The potential return of veteran superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be a boost for Sweden, but will it be enough?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic may come out of international retirement for Euro 2020

Sweden are one of the powerhouses of the Eurovision Song Contest, winning the event six times, but their record in the continent’s football championship is less impressive.

The Swedes reached the semi-finals as hosts of Euro 92 in their first appearance at a European Championship finals.

Since then, though, they have suffered four group-stage eliminations in five attempts, also losing on penalties to the Netherlands in the Euro 2004 quarter-finals.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed his spot-kick against the Dutch but, 17 years later, the AC Milan striker is reportedly poised for an international recall for this summer’s finals.

Even if the 39-year-old icon returns to the fold, Sweden have a tough task ahead of them. They are 100/1 to lift the trophy and 13/2 to top Group E in a pool which includes hot favourites Spain at 3/10, Poland at 6/1 and 14/1 outsiders Slovakia.

Andersson Aiming to Build on Solid World Cup

Sweden’s Euro 2016 campaign will not live long in the memory. A Ciaran Clark own goal earned them a 1-1 opening draw with Ireland but they ended up bottom of their group after conceding late goals in 1-0 defeats to Italy and Belgium.

Coach Janne Andersson was brought in to galvanise the nation’s footballing fortunes and Sweden topped their section at the 2018 World Cup, beating Switzerland 1-0 in the last 16 before a 2-0 quarter-final defeat to England.

The Swedes’ six goals in five games in Russia included two penalties and an own goal from Mexico’s Edson Alvarez but their run to the last eight undoubtedly represented a step in the right direction.

They qualified automatically for Euro 2020 as runners-up to a dominant Spain side who needed an injury-time goal from Rodrigo to earn a 1-1 draw in Solna in October 2019.

Spain had won the reverse fixture 3-0 but that was Sweden’s only defeat in the group as they drew with Norway home and away and completed doubles over Romania, Malta and the Faroe Islands by an aggregate score of 18-1.

Upped in class in the Nations League last autumn, Andersson’s side found things significantly tougher against world champions France, Euro 2016 winners Portugal and World Cup runners-up Croatia.

They were relegated from League A after losing five of their six games, with a 2-1 home win over Croatia the only bright spot in the campaign.

Kulusevski and Isak Offer Long-Term Hope

The victory against Croatia featured a first international goal from Juventus winger Dejan Kulusevski, who was born in April 2000 – a year after Ibrahimovic made his senior debut for Malmo.

Real Sociedad’s 21-year-old striker Alexander Isak is another exciting prospect but key attacking midfielder Emil Forsberg has had an injury-disrupted season for RB Leipzig.

Veterans Sebastian Larsson, Marcus Berg and Mikael Lustig remain important figures for Sweden, which reflects the lack of talent available to coach Andersson.

And his side’s goalscoring struggles against the top teams mean there is plenty of pressure on a defensive unit featuring Everton goalkeeper Robin Olsen and Manchester United centre-back Victor Lindelof.

Sweden kick off their campaign as 15/2 shots to beat Spain and if they could nick a draw against La Roja, priced up at 4/1, it would set them up nicely for the clashes with Slovakia and Poland.

However, it is hard to see a limited Sweden team hitting the high notes this summer even if Ibrahimovic, the rock star of European football, returns for a farewell tour.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

Rob has around 20 years journalism experience and has written and commentated on the likes of football, cricket and rugby. He also has an impressive background in racquet sports and regularly provides content on the likes of tennis and badminton.

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