England hope to end Sweden jinx

Roy Hodgson may wonder if he is looking into a footballing mirror in Kiev on Friday when he travels back to the future as England meet Sweden in their Euro 2012 Group D clash.

England spearhead Wayne Rooney will have to watch his team’s match against Sweden on Friday from the sidelines due to a two-match UEFA ban. AFP

The new England manager, who began his long coaching career with a series of Swedish clubs, is fondly remembered by many of the Scandinavian nation's fans as the unofficial godfather of their national team's consistency and success.

His establishment in Sweden of an orthodox, if defensive, 4-4-2 system, based on the then traditional England approach, was widely copied after he guided Malmo to the domestic championship in 1986 and 1988.

Having adopted a similar system, Sweden were beaten semifinalists on home soil at Euro 92 and then finished third at the 1994 World Cup finals, achievements that followed Hodgson's two four-year spells in a country where he is still respected.

But, like Swedish counterpart Erik Hamren, Hodgson knows that football is no respecter of age or reputations, especially when it is reduced to a close contest between two teams of similar strengths and styles who know each other well. After their 1-1 draw with France in Donetsk, England have a point in the bank and will seek to improve and snatch a decisive victory. Sweden, defeated 2-1 by co-hosts Ukraine in Kiev, know they must win to keep alive hopes of reaching the last eight.

This suggests both sides will attack and an open game is in prospect, but lovers of beautiful football should be warned that this collision of similarities is more likely to resemble an English Premier League slug-fest than a purists' fiesta. The Swedes have never lost to England in a competitive fixture - though many have been dreary 0-0 draws - while the English may take heart from their 1-0 win at Wembley last November, their first against the Swedes since 1968. Hodgson, however, believes he has the players and the know-how to end that spell of Swedish supremacy, even if he is forced to rotate his players with the final group game, against Ukraine in Donetsk next Tuesday, in mind.

“Scott’s 31 and Steven 32, we’re not talking about old players,” Hodgson said. “Certainly Sweden have players considerably older than our team and I think I heard that we are the third youngest squad in the tournament. “Age doesn’t bother me, obviously when you go into the third game you are going to be concerned for all your players, not just Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker.”

In that light - and with no real injury concerns - Hodgson may bring in Jordan Henderson for Parker, alongside captain Gerrard, and leave out winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 18, as he seeks to preserve the balance in midfield.

Hodgson also knows that suspended striker Wayne Rooney will be available for the Ukraine game when he may be in a better position to make changes to his team line-up. If all that gives Sweden few clues, it will make little difference to their approach as Hamren also considers consolidating his midfield by recalling veteran Anders Svensson. He may also draft in Johan Elmander up front to give Zlatan Ibrahimovic more freedom to roam.

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