Posted on May 19, 2006
In World Cup qualifying, Sweden played well and seemed to have little trouble finding the net. Midfielder Fredrik Ljungberg (Arsenal) scored seven times as did powerful striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Juventus). Verteran Henrik Larsson (Barcelona) added four more goals.
In Germany, team captain Olof Mellberg (Aston Villa) will anchor the defense while Andreas Isaksson (Rennes), who was quite impressive during qualifying, will provide sure hands between the sticks. In the midfield Tobias Linderoth (Copenhagen) should hold down the center while Christian Wilhelmsson (Anderlecht) handles the right side. Kim Kallstrom (Rennes) often plays an attacking role from the midfield.
The Swedish bench will also be deep. Options include Marcus Allback (Copenhagen), a veteran of the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga, and playmaker Johan Elmander (Brondby). Much of the rest of the team is young and talented. The warm-up games before the tournament may be just what coach Lars Lagerback needs to pull everyone together.
The fate of Sweden this summer is a tough call. They could bomb out in the first round or they could be semi-finalists. The long, distinguished career of Henrik Larsson is winding down and he would love nothing better than to go out with a bang. If he is able to score and his temperamental strike partner Ibrahimovic, who is only 25 years old, can stay focused, the Swedes could go far. This will be Sweden’s eleventh trip to the World Cup Finals. Maybe this will be the time fate smiles upon them.