Sebastian Larsson backs inside knowledge to give Sweden the advantage against England


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The Independent Football

The Sweden midfielder Sebastian Larsson is banking on his team-mates' intimate knowledge of the Premier League to continue their fine record against England in Kiev tonight.

Larsson said the two sides' mutual familiarity could play in the Swedes' favour. Asked yesterday if England had a style of play that suited his side, the Sunderland player smiled and said: "I hope they suit us, especially tomorrow. 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."

He singled out captain Steven Gerrard as the key player for England, who have never beaten Sweden in seven competitive internationals but did win the last time they met, a friendly at Wembley in November.

"He's a player who has been around a long time and knows the score," Larsson said. "He's their leader, he has everything, and he's a player I have looked up to. He can play defensively, offensively and physically."

After their 2-1 loss to co-hosts Ukraine in their opening Group D game, this is a must-win match for Erik Hamren's side. Larsson said the Swedes needed to make amends for blowing a 1-0 lead in that defeat in Kiev. "We have a desire for revenge, it will be a big key [motivation] for us tomorrow, to show what we can do."

Hamren said he was looking forward to pitting his wits against England's Roy Hodgson, whom he says left a lasting impression on Swedish football. "He's a big name in Sweden and we'll never forget him for what he has done for Swedish football, so I'm looking forward to meeting him tomorrow," he said.

Hodgson is widely credited with transforming Swedish football during his time at Halmstad and Malmo in the 1970s and 80s, but Hamren added: "I hope he's going to have a headache after the game so we'll see, but I really like him and, as we've seen so far [with England], he's a good coach. That we know in Sweden, we really do."

Hamren said that he did not expect England to change their game-plan and play Andy Carroll to try to exploit Sweden's perceived weakness in the air. "Carroll is a box player, good in the box," he said. "If England want that kind of game they'll play him, but until now they have [used] mobile, quick players."

The former Sweden midfielder Jonas Thern, though, was less complimentary of the English style of play. Thern, part of the third-place team at the 1994 World Cup, believes Hodgson's side will lose tonight because their game is "predictable" and "stereotyped".

He also branded as deluded those observers who reported England as playing well in last Monday's 1-1 draw against France in Donetsk.

"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 despite the horrific display [by Sweden] against Ukraine."