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Sweden's sweet send-off

Published: Wednesday 20 June 2012, 10.00CET
Sweden may be heading home but team reporter Sujay Dutt has rarely seen them match the levels they reached against France, providing great hope for the future of Erik Hamrén's side.
by Sujay Dutt
from Kyiv
 
 
Published: Wednesday 20 June 2012, 10.00CET

Sweden's sweet send-off

Sweden may be heading home but team reporter Sujay Dutt has rarely seen them match the levels they reached against France, providing great hope for the future of Erik Hamrén's side.

It was around 3am last night. With my balcony window wide open to try to stay cool, distant chanting slipped into my room along with the night air. "Stå upp, vi är gul och blå," a group of fans were singing. Even in my Kyiv suburb, far from the fan zone or the much written-about Swedish campsite, yellow and blue fans had reason to stand up. Their team went out, but on a high note.

As far as eliminations go, I can't remember one as sweet as this. Mainly because I can barely remember when I saw Sweden play 90 minutes of football to the same calibre that they did against France on Tuesday night. Possibly at UEFA EURO 2004, a good eight years ago.

There have been some great moments since, but rarely for the full length of a match and rarely against the same quality of opponents. France were unbeaten for 23 games until Erik Hamrén's team finally got their entire game plan together. Sweden could well have added two, three or four more goals if not for a magnificent Hugo Lloris display in the French goal.

Sweden were solid in defence, led by Olof Mellberg. They were precise in midfield, anchored by Kim Källström and Anders Svensson. And they were lethal in attack, primarily through Zlatan Ibrahimović. Too bad all these different parts in Hamrén's puzzle didn't fall into place earlier in the tournament.

©AFP/Getty Images

Sweden were superb all over the park against France

The players I spoke to after the game had similar stories of pride at showing their real ability in the last match mixed with a sense of disappointment for not managing to earn at least one point more against Ukraine and England. So I was not the only one wondering what might have been had this team made the quarter-finals.

Ibrahimović had said earlier that though they had nothing to play for against France, their professional pride was at stake. His volley that made it 1-0 – one more addition to a lengthy personal highlight reel – was definitely something he should be proud of.

For Hamrén, pride was not the only thing at stake. The man who has led Sweden down a new path, built on ball possession and attack, had not seen an all-round effort until they met group leaders France. When I met him shortly after the final whistle, he said: "That we can win playing this way means an incredible amount for our self-belief and motivation to lay down the hard work so we can improve even more."

By the sound of it, Swedish fans should have reason to sing through the nights in foreign lands for many years to come.

Last updated: 22/06/12 3.07CET

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