Sweden don’t have the great players they once had but the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimović continues to knock in the goals when Sweden most need them.
Will his presence be enough at Euro 2016? Let’s take a closer look…
Route to Euro 2016
Despite being second and four points above third-placed Russia with four games still to play, a loss in Moscow and a 4-1 drubbing at home to top-placed Austria left Sweden in third place behind Russia.
Wins over Liechtenstein and Moldova helped to secure their spot in the play-offs.
Sweden took on neighbours, Denmark, in the play-off, winning 2-1 at home and drawing 2-2 in Copenhagen.
As hosts in 1992, Sweden reached the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual runners-up, Germany. This was their first appearance at a European Championships (and also their best).
Since then, they have qualified for the finals. However, Euro 2004 is the only time they have made it past the group stage and into the quarter-finals, where they lost a penalty shootout to The Netherlands.
Erik Hamrén became manager of the Sweden national team in 2009 on a part-time basis, while also in charge of Rosenborg in the Norwegian league. He took on the job full-time after Rosenborg released him from his contract.
Hamrén led Rosenborg to two league titles as well as AaB Fodbold to a Danish league title, adding to his three Swedish Cups.
He remains head coach, despite Sweden’s defeat at the hands of England at Euro 2012 and regardless of his team’s failure to reach the finals of the 2014 World Cup.
The Swedish public and press remain on Hamrén’s side because they realise that the squad doesn’t possess the same level of quality it once did. His team work hard, but still rely heavily on the ageing (but still potent) Ibrahimović.
Most important player
Ibrahimović may be 34 now, but he’s still as vital as ever for Sweden, if not for PSG. During the 2006 World Cup, current Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill, called him “the most overrated player in the world”.
Yet for the past decade, the Swede has been proving O’Neill wrong with many fine performances and goals. In 111 appearances for his country, Ibrahimović has hit the back of the net 62 times.
23-year-old, Oscar Hiljemark captained Sweden to victory at the Under-21 European Championship in 2015. The midfielder currently plays for Palermo in Serie A, where he often displays his strong passing skills, two-footedness and finishing prowess.
The emergence of Hiljemark and others from the country’s strong under-21 side may boost Sweden’s chances of making its mark in the not too distant future.
Even with the current squad of hard-workers, Sweden simply don’t have the quality available to leave a proper mark at Euro 2016. Their first test comes against the Republic of Ireland, however, where we’ll see if Zlatan and co. can get some points on the board early on.
We think the best they can do is qualify for the knockout stage as runners-up, but even that seems unlikely.