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Swedes hold no secrets for Hodgson

Published: Thursday 14 June 2012, 21.00CET
Swedes develop a special relationship with English football from a young age, but in Roy Hodgson, their national team will come up against a man who knows just as much about them.
by Sujay Dutt
from Kyiv
 
 
Published: Thursday 14 June 2012, 21.00CET

Swedes hold no secrets for Hodgson

Swedes develop a special relationship with English football from a young age, but in Roy Hodgson, their national team will come up against a man who knows just as much about them.

Most Swedes have a favourite English club. I doubt many Englishmen can even name more than two or three Swedish football clubs. Roy Hodgson though, is an exception, and the coach might just be England's biggest threat.

When Swedish television started broadcasting English league games on Saturdays in the late 1960s, football fans immediately took clubs like Ipswich Town FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC to their hearts. As well as the giants from London, Liverpool and Manchester, of course.

The familiarity lives on in these days of the Premier League. Ten of 23 players in the Swedish squad have played or are still playing for English clubs. Over the past few days, I've spoken to two whose careers were formed in England, Martin Olsson and Sebastian Larsson. Olsson called it "a dream" to play England in a major tournament.

Is that sentiment mirrored by Olsson's English counterpart at left-back, Ashley Cole? I don't think he or any of his team-mates get any more worked up about playing Sweden than if they were to face, say, Denmark or Belgium.

It's a fact that can work to Sweden's advantage. Looking back over the years, it probably has. But this England side is managed by an Englishman with a difference. Hodgson coached Halmstads BK to two league titles and Malmö FF to five in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hodgson understands the mentality of the Swedish players and will be sure that his players do not let their guard down. In short, I believe it makes it more difficult for Sweden to face an England side coached by Hodgson than one coached by a different English coach. Or Fabio Capello for that matter.

But like I said, Sweden have their own experts on their opponents' strengths and weaknesses. None more so than Larsson, now of Sunderland AFC after joining Arsenal FC's youth ranks at 16. His favourite memory of England-Sweden encounters? "When we won 2-1 at Råsunda in 1998. I was watching the game in London." On Friday, Larsson has the chance to create similar memories for a new generation of Swedes.

Last updated: 23/06/12 6.20CET

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