England can be more bold now, says skipper Steven Gerrard
Skipper Steven Gerrard is confident England will finally gain their first win over Sweden in a competitive match if they emulate the performance they gave in their Euro 2012 opener against France.
England have failed to overcome the Swedes in seven previous World Cup or European Championship encounters ahead of tonight’s Group D clash in Kiev.
But Gerrard is adamant that sequence should end, even allowing for the threat posed by Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Gerrard said: “I would think the same level of performance against France will be good enough to beat Sweden. I would say so with all due respect to Sweden who are a good, strong team, but they are not France.
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“I think we can be a little bit more bold and a little bit more ambitious and get at the Swedes a little bit more. We are confident if we reach the same level of performance, it will be enough for a victory.”
However, Gerrard warned: “Although we are confident, that’s not to say we won’t be trying to learn from the mistakes we made in the first game. We’ve analysed what we did right and wrong against France and we will be trying to improve on our performance as well.
“The boys are confident we will be on four points after this next game and that will be a good start to this group.”
Gerrard knows England have to counter the danger of Ibrahimovic if they are to inflict Sweden’s second loss of the tournament.
He said: “Ibrahimovic is a world-class talent and he is very dangerous so we need the same level of commitment defensively to try and stop him. If you give him time and space, he can hurt any team and we are well aware of him.
“But he is not the only good player Sweden have. We have to worry about them as a whole team. They get dangerous crosses into the box, they are a big side. There is a lot more threat from Sweden than Ibrahimovic but he is a world-class talent.”
Gerrard knows the qualities England have to counter to get the better of Sweden, who were beaten 2-1 by Ukraine on Monday. He said: “People say ‘why can’t we beat Sweden?’ and that is credit to Sweden.
“They never give up, they fight to the end. Hopefully it will be different [this time] because we are very confident we can beat them.”
England manager Roy Hodgson is relishing the contest against the country where he built his reputation as a coach, leading Halmstad to two league titles and Malmo to five in a row.
He said: “I’ve faced Sweden many times, three with Switzerland and once with Finland, and I’ve managed to achieve two victories and two draws.
“But this is the most important occasion for me.”
Hodgson has called for England to be more “clinical” with their attacking play.
England earned plenty of praise for the defensive qualities against France in Donetsk but they failed to make the most of the few opportunities that came their way on the counter-attack.
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