Where was the expansive brand of football, Sweden?
Judging a team over the course of two games is slightly unfair, but I’ll do it anyway as life isn’t fair. Pre-tournament, the general consensus was that this Swedish team was atypical in comparison to those of the past, with their new, expansive style of football the most dished out appraisal. Naturally, I was looking forward to seeing them, there are players in their squad who i’m particularly fond of – Kim Kallstrom, Olof Mellberg, Anders Svensson, to name a few. Yet, aside from industrious, even if slightly over-indulgent performances of Ibrahimovic, there has been few signs of this expansive brand of football and it saddens me to see them knocked out. The highly-rated Rasmus Elm seemed to be struck by the stage fright that he claimed he had as a youngster and his performances so far at the tournament, even when Sweden were in the ascendancy, would have been met with arched eyebrows from the ‘big’ clubs interested in him.
In the match we learned that there is a sense of togetherness and ice-cool calmness about this England team. Although there are some relatively inexperienced names playing in their first tournament in there, they did manage to turn it around at a time when they could have seen the sensationalist critical headlines being written in the blink of an eye. The next match against Ukraine will be a major test as it is a must-win game for the co-hosts. That match, then, should tell us even more about England from a tactical and psychological point of view, a draw will be enough but playing for a draw is a very dangerous game.
The Rooney dilemma
The fear before the tournament has been buried. England march into the final group game still with a very good chance of qualification, which means Wayne Rooney can still play a key role in the tournament. Or can he? Bar the first 25 minutes of this match, England, even if unspectacular, have looked like a team and, more importantly, have got the job done. Will the return of Rooney disrupt that balance? Aside from changing what has so far worked there would be little reason not to re-introduce Wazza. Against tougher opposition where England need to win, they would need the sublime use of the ball that the Manchester United man possesses on the counter-attack and his understanding with Welbeck cannot be understated.