Erik Hamrén looked at candidates for his Sweden finals squad after taking 23 Scandiniavian-based players for two friendlies in Abu Dhabi, drawing 1-1 with Estonia and beating Finland 3-0.
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Erik Hamrén was able to look at candidates for his Sweden UEFA EURO 2016 squad last week after taking 23 Scandiniavian-based players for two friendlies in Abu Dhabi, drawing 1-1 with Estonia and beating Finland 3-0.
In the first match of the year, against Estonia, Sweden took time to settle. Many of the team had never played together before, but after falling behind they came back strongly to equalise through Mikael Ishak, one of five players from last summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship-winning side in the squad. Sweden were much improved four days later against Finland with Emil Salomonsson's penalty just before half-time added to by Melker Hallberg and Emir Kujovic.
Patrik Carlgren started in goal against Finland, and looked assured as the opponents threatened in the early stages. Sweden's penalty-saving hero at U21 level last summer, Carlgren is a strong candidate to be one of the understudies to Andreas Isaksson in France.
Central midfielders Gustav Svensson and the Elfsborg duo of Marcus Rohdén and Victor Claesson all put in solid performances in both matches, but particularly so against Finland. Though probably behind Hamburg's Albin Ekdal and Grasshoppers' Kim Källström in the pecking order, Svensson, Rohdén and Claesson provided Hamrén with some food for thought.
Allsvenskan top scorer in 2015, Norrköping striker Kujovic, got his first senior international goal against Finland, and was always a threat in both games. With Swedish forwards in foreign leagues proving below par this season, with the notable exception of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Kujovic is becoming a candidate for the finals squad.
There were several others who used the week in the Middle East to enhance their reputations, if not enough to make Hamrén's EURO squad, then certainly for Håkan Ericson's Olympic Games selection later in the summer. Left-back Pa Konate, forward Ishak and attacking midfielder Hallberg all belong to this group.
Sweden's full squad are back in action on 29 March when they welcome the Czech Republic to Solna for a friendly. They also host Slovenia on 30 May before kicking off their UEFA EURO 2016 campaign against the Republic of Ireland at Stade de France on 13 June, with Italy and Belgium also in Group E.
Sweden debutants in Abu Dhabi: Patrick Carlgren*, Jacob Rinne*, Pa Konate*, Linus Wahlqvist, Joakim Nilsson, Alexander Fransson, Meiker Hallberg, Kerim Mrabti, Gustav Engball, Emir Kujovic
*Member of 2015 U21 winning squad