Sweden are one of the teams at UEFA EURO 2012 with the most loyal following of travelling fans. Nobody who was in Berlin for their match against Paraguay at the 2006 FIFA World Cup or in Innsbruck or Salzburg for the group games at UEFA EURO 2008 is ever likely to forget those experiences. Waves of fans painted the towns yellow; in the case of Berlin, an estimated 50,000 Swedes descended on the city.
Fans coming to Kyiv will be treated to similar visions of yellow and blue – though that'll be at least partly due to the home supporters. In the fan zone the other day, a Swedish corner caught my eye. Two gents in their 30s, Jörgen and Björn from the southern city of Landskrona, were setting up shop, which consisted of an outdoor bar promising beer, food and celebrity guests from Sweden.
"Glenn Hysén will be here to share his thoughts before each match," they revealed, dropping the name of the former Liverpool FC and Sweden defender and father of one of Erik Hamrén's current squad members. "Maybe Glenn'll have some inside info from Tobias too."
According to the Swedish Football Association (SvFF), the number of fans will reach its peak for the Group D game against England on 15 June, with around 18,000 ticket holders ready to cheer for the Blågult along with Hysén senior. For the opening match, nearly 12,000 Swedes will be there. For that game, however, there will be nearly five times as many people backing co-hosts Ukraine.
When I spoke to Hamrén about the Group D opener, he had already found a way to turn the numerical fan superiority of the Ukrainians into a Swedish advantage. "There will be a lot of pressure, but there's going to be yellow and blue all over the stadium, so we can just pretend they're all Swedish," he said.
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