Sweden's tendency to concede soft
headed goals came back to haunt them against Ukraine but despite
this defensive headache coach Erik Hamren does not seem unduly
Co-hosts Ukraine came back from a goal down to win their
Group D opener 2-1 on Monday with two headed goals from
talismanic striker Andriy Shevchenko.
Sweden have now conceded five headed goals in their last
three games, including three from corners.
A defeat on Friday in their second game will scupper the
Swedes and England coach Roy Hodgson and burly striker Andy
Carroll will have noticed Sweden's weakness in the air.
Despite their poor record, Hamren was philosophical.
"It's a part of football, you can't do so much about it,"
he told reporters after the match.
"With the corner, we should have won it in the first area
with Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], we had a man on the front post but
not in the spot we wanted. Sometimes it happens."
Rather than focus on his side's defensive failings, Hamren
praised Ukraine hero Shevchenko's predatory instincts.
"He was really good in the box, two really good goals. That
made the result. Good for him, bad for us," he said.
After conceding three goals in recent friendlies against
Iceland and Serbia - all headers, two from corners - Hamren said
his side would not get "hung up" on their defensive frailties.
"We can do that the day we lose," Hamren had told a news
conference in the lead-up to the Ukraine game.
That day has now arrived and if Sweden want to progress they
will have to address their defensive frailty.
Their zonal marking system at set-pieces has been a complete
failure, with players unsure who to pick up and when to do so,
resulting in free headers for the opposition from corners.
Seasoned defender Olof Mellberg is still able to deal with
high balls into the area from deep but his defending of crosses
when facing his own goal has let Sweden down in the last few
A serious knee injury sustained by Daniel Majstorovic forced
Hamren to reshuffle his pack, and Andreas Granqvist has not
looked entirely comfortable alongside Mellberg at the back.
Waiting in the wings is Jonas Olsson.
At six feet four (193 cm) the West Bromwich Albion
centre-back has the height and experience of English football
needed to deal with England's potential aerial threat.
Having played few games at club level due to injury, Celtic
full-back Michael Lustig found it hard to keep pace and left the
gap at the near post for Shevchenko's sublime second goal.
Granqvist has been impressive at right back in recent
friendlies and he could move from the centre of defence to
replace Lustig with Olsson coming into the middle.
Hamren's team selection gambles may not have paid off
against Ukraine but he is nothing if not courageous.
"Only five or six players reached the level I wanted
tonight. That is not good enough," he said.
With an all-or-nothing game against England to come on
Friday, that means several places are up for grabs.
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