Sweden came in for plenty of criticism for their defensive tactics in their scoreless draw with Spain, but captain Sebastian Larsson is not bothered as they prepare to face Slovakia in their next Euro 2020 Group E game on Friday.
The Swedes smothered the Spaniards and took off striker Alexander Isak midway through the second half as they orchestrated a shut-out they believe sets them up to reach the knockout stages.
“We are very secure in ourselves … people will always have opinions, criticism or not, somewhere our basic feeling is that we took a point from Spain away in our Euro opener, which as a result is good for us and gives us opportunities,” Larsson told reporters on Thursday.
A repeat of their park-the-bus tactics is unlikely against Slovakia.
“They (Slovakia) played in a clear way in a number of games now, our analysis is that it’s not a Spain type of game that we’ll meet, it’ll be a different type of game,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said.
“We expect to have a little more ball in the build-up phase and we’ll have to drive the match forward more. They sit quite deep and they are very good in their counter-attacking phase … I believe they’ll back home a bit, but you can never know for sure,” he added.
Winger Dejan Kulusevski has returned to the squad following a positive COVID-19 test but may not feature against the Slovaks.
“Dejan is in a stepping-up phase and we’ll see what the doctors say. He’s not being considered to start, but it might possible for him to come on … I hope and believe he’ll be available, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Andersson said.
Sweden midfielder Matthias Svanberg is still isolating following a positive test.
Slovakia top Group E after their 2-1 win over Poland. Spain and Sweden are two points behind with the Poles bottom ahead of the second round of games.
The return of winger Dejan Kulusevksi to face Slovakia will bolster Sweden’s attacking options following an ultra-defensive display against Spain that earned them a scoreless draw, but few new fans at Euro 2020.
Janne Andersson’s side stifled the Spaniards in Seville as Juventus winger Kulusevksi watched on TV, isolated from his team mates along with midfielder Mattias Svanberg following positive tests for COVID-19.
Having never lost to the Slovakians, Andersson indicated that he and his side are unlikely to show them the same level of respect as they did to Spain.
“We have everything in our toolbox based on what we have practised, what we have prepared for and how we have played in different games these last few years,” Andersson told reporters.
“We have shared experiences of different opponents and the tactical flexibility in particular is a key — that we can handle different opponents and find the right weapon in every game that we should use to succeed,” he added.
Sweden striker Alexander Isak, who had a shot turned onto a post in the first half and created a chance that Marcus Berg should have scored from in the second, should lead the line, and he has good memories of playing against the Slovakians.
Isak netted his first international goals against Slovakia in January 2017 aged 17 years 113 days, making him the youngest player to score for Sweden.
The Swedes will face a tough task in Slovakia, who beat Poland 2-1 to top the group after the first round of games with Milan Skriniar getting the winner.
With no injury problems reported, Stefan Tarkovic has a full Slovakia squad to choose from, while Sweden’s Mikael Lustig may miss out after suffering a groin strain against Spain.