Sunderland’s Seb Larsson aiming to shatter England hopes

Sweden's Sebastian Larsson, right, and Ukraine's Yevhen Konoplyanka challenge for the ball.
Sweden's Sebastian Larsson, right, and Ukraine's Yevhen Konoplyanka challenge for the ball.
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SEB Larsson believes Sweden can ruin England’s Euro 2012 tournament tonight by beating Roy Hodgson’s men.

And the Sunderland midfielder is hoping he can put an indifferent personal display in his country’s opening game against the Ukraine (a 2-1 defeat) behind him this evening by heaping misery on the Three Lions.

“We expect a tough game,” Larsson said. “England will be organised, especially since Roy Hodgson took over. But both teams need the points and I know if we play to our capabilities we can beat England.

“My own performance against Ukraine was not one of my better games – we didn’t really get into the game in the first half – so I’m eager to play well against England.

“Most people would say they are favourites but we don’t worry about that though, we just want to play at a high level again.”

The Black Cats winger hopes Swedish familiarity with the English game will boost his side’s chances.

“I hope England’s style suit us,” he said. “I feel it’s a special match and I think many others do too. It’s a league we have grown up with and followed very closely.

“It’s one of the big football nations so it’s always been a special match and will probably be so in the future too.”

Larsson thinks that the shackling of Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard holds the key to the game this evening.

“Gerrard means a lot to them as their captain and leader,” he said. “He’s got it all. I’ve looked up to him for a long time, he knows the defensive and attacking parts of the game and we have to handle him as best we can.”

Meanwhile, Swedish coach Erik Hamren has praised his side for moving on from Monday’s shock defeat.

“It’s been a tough time since the loss versus Ukraine,” he said. “Our performance was not what we wished for but these feelings disappeared quickly. We had a really good training session on Wednesday and the last two days have given us real energy.”

He also admitted that his side will likely have to beat both England and France to qualify for the quarter-finals, but is confident that they can do so.

“It is a similar situation to the qualifiers when we needed to beat Finland and Netherlands,” he shrugged. “Maybe we need to win both games, but we have good experience in that regard.”

Certainly his side will not lack confidence if the comments of former Sweden midfielder Jonas Thern are anything to go by.

Thern, part of the third-placed Swedish team at the 1994 World Cup, has accused Hodgson’s side of being “predictable” and “stereotyped”.

“Apparently the one shot towards the France goal over 90 minutes was all it took to ignite the chronic English illusion of world football supremacy,” he said.

“I said before the Euro finals started that Sweden would beat England and I stand by that statement.”