Martin Olsson moved to England to play football aged 17 and six years later the Sweden defender comes face to face with his adopted country in Kyiv. "It's going to be special," he told UEFA.com.
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Martin Olsson was 17 when he made the decision to move to Blackburn and England. Speaking to UEFA.com, he described Friday's match against his adopted home country as "a dream".
Olsson grew up in the same part of Helsingborg as Henrik Larsson, but after the goalscoring legend had left the local club for Feyenoord. Instead, the youngster looked to the Premier League for inspiration.
"I grew up watching a lot of English players when I was young, me and my twin," Olsson said. "To face them in a major tournament will be a dream. I've been living there for close to seven years as well, so it's going to be special."
He left Högaborgs BK for Blackburn Rovers FC's youth academy in January 2006, and six years later twin brother Marcus joined him at the Lancashire club. Marcus got his first Sweden cap this winter but did not make the UEFA EURO 2012 squad. In the case of Martin, his place in Erik Hamrén's plans was never in question.
His first full international in May 2010 was a success to say the least. Coming on as a 66th-minute substitute against Bosnia and Herzegovina with the score at 1-1, Olsson scored twice as Sweden pulled away to a 4-2 win. He would go on to earn a regular starting berth and to add two more goals to his tally in the qualifiers, living up to Hamrén's description of him as "a modern full-back".
After the 2-1 loss to Ukraine in Friday's Group D opener, Sweden are bottom of the table, since England and France picked up a point each. So the stakes on Friday are very high for Olsson and his team, who cannot afford to lose again. "We can't think about it like that," he said. "If we do we will lose, we will be out before we even start playing. We have to focus on winning, like we always do."
The squad held an open training session on Wednesday in Kyiv, with approximately 6,000 fans present, singing and cheering throughout the session. "It really warms the heart to have fans who support us like that, even though we'd lost the match," reflected Olsson. "It gives us a lot of energy and we will bring that into the game."
In preparation for the finals, Sweden racked up friendly wins against Croatia, Iceland and Serbia. However, Hamrén's side are also familiar with the do-or-die scenario on Friday.
As they entered their last qualifier last October, Sweden had to beat the Netherlands to qualify for the finals. The Dutch had not lost since the 2010 FIFA World Cup final and were 2-1 up before Sweden turned it around to a 3-2 win. "We know we can play good football", said Olsson. "If we can win against nations like the Netherlands and Croatia, then why not against England?"