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Anders Svensson did not enjoy watching the FIFA World Cup from the comfort of his armchair and it is an experience the Sweden midfielder does not plan to repeat when UEFA EURO 2012 comes around.
Under Lars Lagerbäck, the Swedes were ever presents at the big tournaments between 2000 and 2008 and Svensson played his part at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and ensuing UEFA European Championships in 2004 and 2008. After missing out on a trip to South Africa in June, he is confident they can make amends under new coach Erik Hamrén as they embark on their qualifying campaign with Group E fixtures over the coming week against Hungary and San Marino.
The Sweden vice-captain said: "It wasn't easy watching the World Cup, especially when it began and you thought, 'We should be there, we are better than those teams' – some of them, not all of them! We didn't have a good qualification and missed out, but now we need to bounce back. We've got EURO 2012 to look forward to.
We have a tough group with the Dutch in there, who reached the final of the World Cup, so it's going to be difficult. But we have a lot of young new players who are looking very good. They have done well with the Under-21s, they are already established at good clubs in Europe, and it looks good."
Sweden warmed up for this week's qualifiers with a hugely encouraging 3-0 victory over Scotland on 11 August which featured not just a goal from Zlatan Ibrahimović on his return after a self-imposed nine-month exile but strikes by Emir Bajrami and Ola Toivonen, two graduates of the Under-21 team that reached the UEFA European Championship semi-finals on home soil last year.
The Swedes scored 12 goals in four games in that U21 event and five of that squad featured in Hamrén's side against the Scots. The performance that evening underlined just why Lagerbäck's successor has been tipped to turn Sweden into a more attack-minded team. For Svensson, the future looks bright. "We haven't had him for a long time, but he is very positive, and I like that. He tries things and will make a mistake without hiding. Try and if you fail then at least you tried – that's a philosophy I like.
"Before, it was really organised and strict when we played with Sweden – trying to minimise your mistakes and play it simple. Now we think more positive, trying to pass the ball around, taking risks, and playing to your strengths, each and every one. [The coach] demands a lot, but he is also very positive, and he wants us to try and be courageous on the pitch, and I like that."
Hamrén's assistant is Marcus Allbäck, the former Sweden striker, and he is equally enthused about the "new era" that is unfolding. "We have a lot of players who have played with the U21s for a few years and now they're getting more and more settled in the national team," he said. "Having Zlatan back is obviously a big boost for us as well."
Allbäck, who earned 74 international caps, believes that the Sweden players can only benefit from the fresh ideas that Hamrén has introduced, which include a switch from a rigid 4-4-2 set-up to a 4-2-3-1 formation. "His values about how to play the game are something that I am in favour of," he added. "I think the players needed something new. We had Lars for so many years, and he did some great things for Swedish football, but now and then you need a change and that's where we are right now."
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