Football: England ready to end Sweden jinx

KRAKOW, Poland - England are determined to end their decades-long jinx against Sweden on Friday in a Group D encounter which has assumed must-win status for both sides.

Sweden's opening 2-1 defeat to Ukraine on Monday means that Erik Hamren's team will be eliminated if they lose to England, who have never beaten the Scandinavians in a competitive fixture.

Ukraine's win has complicated matters for England, however, who must beat Sweden in Kiev if they are to avoid the possible daunting scenario of having to beat the co-hosts in their final group game next week to advance.

"We are in a position where we can't lose any more games and hopefully we can win both," Sweden defender Jonas Olsson said.

"We will focus on Friday first, try to get a good result there. It will be nicer to win both games and not be depending on other results.

Sweden have endured a period of soul-searching following their loss to the Ukrainians, with coach Erik Hamren warning his team would face an early flight home if the performance was repeated against England.

"In the first-half against Ukraine there were only maybe five or six players who answered the call to duty, and that is not good enough and cannot be repeated," Hamren said.

England by contrast have returned to their southern Poland training base at Krakow in relatively good spirits after their opening 1-1 draw with France.

Whilst England's defensive display against the French failed to win many points for artistic impression, the mood within the English camp is upbeat.

"The Swedes are difficult and I don't think we've beaten them for a long time in a competitive game. We will respect them but, with all respect, it's a game we should win," was the bullish assessment of captain Steven Gerrard.

England beat Sweden 1-0 in a Wembley friendly last year but have never beaten Sweden in a competitive fixture, with the Swedes winning twice and drawing five times in seven previous meetings.

Manager Roy Hodgson acknowledged England needed to show more penetration in attack if they were to take all three points.

Hodgson is likely to stick with the 4-4-2 formation which stymied France, meaning no rest for either Gerrard or his midfield minder Scott Parker.

However Hodgson has downplayed fears that the thirtysomething duo would struggle to back up Monday's display when they take to the field in Kiev.

"Scott's 31 and Steven 32, we're not talking about old players," Hodgson said. "Certainly Sweden have players considerably older than our team and I think I heard that we are the third youngest squad in the tournament.

"Age doesn't bother me, obviously when you go into the third game you are going to be concerned for all your players, not just Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker. You're going to be concerned for them all whatever age they are because three games played in Ukraine in heat takes it out of everybody.

"But we have the players I think in the squad to step up to the plate and I'm pretty sure that first of all these players will be wanting to play all the games and they'll be working very hard as they've done after this France game to make certain they recover and are ready to go again."

Hodgson would not confirm his line-up but ruled out making wholesale changes.

"As yet we haven't actually picked the team of course and I am certainly not prepared to say at this stage whether there will be changes or no change," he said.

"But there won't be wholesale changes, that's for certain because we don't have any injury problems and the players who did well against France are all hoping to get picked to play again."

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