Leaky Sweden hampered by injuries
By Philip O'Connor
KIEV (Reuters) - Sweden suffered the curse of many smaller teams at Euro 2012 when injuries to key players forced their coach's hand and try as he might Erik Hamren could not find a solution.
Defeats in the opening two games ended the Swedes' hopes of progressing in the tournament and a 2-0 victory over a below-par French side in the final match was not enough to make up for the disappointment of failing to reach the knockout stages.
Hamren will need to add more defensive nous and tactical ruthlessness to his team's armory if they are going to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Most of the problems were caused by injuries to key players who had taken Sweden to the finals and Hamren had trouble working out how to cope without them.
Johan Elmander's fractured foot was a huge blow for the attack but it was the loss of centre back Daniel Majstorovic to a serious knee injury that caused the biggest problem.
After nine appearances in qualifying, the absence of Majstorovic robbed Hamren of a dominant aggressive presence at the back and forced him to reshuffle his pack.
When he did so, Sweden began leaking soft goals at set pieces, and the confidence of a makeshift back four ebbed away.
With Mikael Lustig hardly playing for Celtic after joining from Rosenborg, Andreas Granqvist was given a run at right back in the friendlies, only to be shunted into the centre against Ukraine. Continued...