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Sweden captain Fredrik Ljungberg is back to full fitness and impatient for his side's UEFA EURO 2008™ campaign to get under way with an opening game against Greece in Salzburg on Tuesday.
Ljungberg said he has now fully recovered from the cracked rib he picked up while playing for English club West Ham United FC towards the end of the domestic season. The injury had threatened to rule him out of the finals, but the attacking midfielder said he was now feeling fine. "I will be playing with a protective device for the whole tournament. I feel OK right now, but if I am feeling any pain I will be using painkillers." Looking tanned and relaxed, the shaven-headed Swede expects to meet difficult opponents in the shape of the UEFA EURO 2004™ winners, explaining:. "Greece are the reigning champions and of course we have a lot of respect for them. They surprised a lot of teams last time and they could do the same again, so we have to be careful."
According to a recent poll back in his home country, 75 per cent of the Swedish public expect their national team to reach the quarter-finals here, just as they did in Portugal four years ago, where they lost on penalties to the Netherlands. "The group is a tough one, we have to recognise this," said Ljungberg. "It's great that there is interest and that people want us to go on because they believe in us. I think that's very positive indeed." He is especially keen to get inside the ground and find out just how large the Swedish contingent will be at the Stadion Salzburg Wals-Siezenheim. "Of course the fans make the difference, particularly so in Germany when we beat Paraguay in Berlin during the [2006 FIFA] World Cup," he said. As for his own enthusiam, the 31-year-old insisted it remained strong despite his having now reached veteran status. "Of course I feel the first championship I attended [UEFA EURO 2000™] was the one I looked forward to most because everything was completely new, but every championship is a highlight in my life."
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