Sweden: Strategy and Tactics

Written by Brian Koh



Erik Hamren

Sweden has been led by Erik Hamren since 2009. Usually, when a single manager continues to hold his position for such a long time, it means that the manager has been performing pretty well. However, it is quite not the case for Sweden. Sweden’s performance in major international tournaments since Hamren’s reign has been disappointing. They failed to qualify for World Cups in 2010 and 2014. In 2012 EURO, they finished last in their group. However, people’s sympathy has been on Hamren’s side since they knew that Hamren was no more leading the same team as before. Hamren’s Sweden did not have Larsson and Ljungberg, the core players of Sweden until the mid-2000’s. But Zlatan is still on-board and now it is finally time to test Hamren’s capability in major international tournament.

Style of Play

Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I admit that this is a quite harsh comment on an entire team’s game plan but whoever followed the Swedish national team for the recent five years would admit this fact. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the “only world-class player” on the squad. And not surprisingly – we’ve seen him doing things before – his mere presence was enough for Sweden to qualify to the final stage. Ibrahimovic scored 11 goals from their 10 qualifying games, making him the second most scoring player of the qualifying stage. His presence will impose serious threat to all the opponents.

Subsequently, Sweden’s game plan sticks to what can make the most use out of the now-aging Ibrahimovic. Zlatan, while he still possesses the killer instinct and world-class level skills, he is no more a player who can keep up the fast pace of the modern football for 90 mins. Hamren’s decision was to bring this superstar down a little bit, making him play like a shadow-striker/play-maker. This would seem like a similar role he plays for PSG. But the key difference would be that he would have Berg or Guidetti instead of Cavani.


The formation Hamren has been using to best accommodate the above strategy is 4-4-1-1. 4-4-1-1 is actually the formation that could be most familiar to Swedish players. It is the same formation that is being used in the youth level and the most recent U-21 international tournaments. It is safe to say that the younger players of Sweden will be playing in an environment they are most used to. But with the presence of Zlatan, their main focus now would be to make effective links to this star player.


I don’t know how many times I am referring to this name in this guide but it is what it is. Ibrahimovic will be the most obvious strength of this team. I will not elaborate here to avoid being too redundant.

Another strong point is their team ethic and organization. As I have mentioned above, their 4-4-1-1 formation is a stable system a lot of players have been using throughout their international team careers. Such organization can make up for some of their problems caused by lack of star players.


First, they do not have enough star players on their roster. No one player, even Lionel Messi, can do everything without the support from other star players like Iniesta or Neymar. Choosing the right partner for Ibrahimovic would be one of the most important challenges that this team is facing. So far, Hamren seems lost between Berg and Guidetti.

Another weak point of Sweden is their defense. Sweden has usually been known for its strong defense so far. However, this year is different. Hamren has been struggling to find the right side-backs. For instance, though Oscar Wendt is considered to be the best player in terms of personal capabilities, Hamren has preferred Martin Olsson throughout the qualifying matches, mostly because of this hustler-like style. Also, their center-backs lack talents.

How to cite this page: “Sweden: Strategy and Tactics”, Written by Brian Koh(2016). European Cup 2016 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/tournament-guides/european-cup-2016-guide/underrated-teams-of-euro-2016/sweden/sweden-strategy-and-tactics/ (accessed on (date)). 

One thought on “Sweden: Strategy and Tactics

  1. William Hague

    I don’t know too much about the history of Swedish soccer but I am curious to why they lack depth in talent. Are they just starting to build up their youth programs or is soccer just not a staple sport in the country?

    Knowing a bit about Ibrahimovic, is his age a concern to the team? I would imagine that he cannot be as relied upon as in years past.

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