When you were growing up in Sweden, how aware were you of Roy Hodgson and the impact he was having on Swedish football?
He came to my hometown (Halmstad) and won the league in 1976 and 1979 so of course I knew about him. My friend is the chairman of our club and he was a player with Hodgson and they are very tight, so I have heard a lot of stories about him and he is supposed to be a very good manager.
What influence did the tactics he brought to Halmstad, and later Malmo, have on Swedish football and the national team?
Not so much the national team, but in my hometown he made wonders. Of course it was a different kind of game but we won the league and it was a big thing for him to come in and win it. Then he developed. He was at big clubs like Inter and there are not many English managers who have been able to go around in different countries.
It is said that he exported an English style to Sweden with 4-4-2, would you agree?
I think he implemented it stronger than it was before, because the Swedish have always been influenced by English football. I think as well Bob Houghton was in Swedish football at the same time and he influenced it a lot as well.
What do think of Erik Hamren’s attempts to move Sweden towards a more attacking style of play?
I love attacking football, there is no question about that, but at the same time you need to look at what sort of material you have, player-wise. I felt against Ukraine we played a lot of long balls which is not how we said we wanted to play. That was a little bit of a disappointment as they have talked so much that they wanted to play more football. That’s what we need to do, and then we should play it, because that’s the stage to do it on. I hope they will show it now against England.
It’s interesting then that as Sweden continue to evolve, England under Hodgson have moved away from 4-2-3-1 and back to a 4-4-2. Against France we saw a cautious performance from England, what did you make of it?
France are seen as one of the favourites probably – they are good with the ball. Not to jump to Hodgson’s defence, but he has only been there for one-and-a-half months and to make the team play exactly how he wants is not that easy. I think he has taken the cautious approach: ‘It is better we are solid at the back and then we develop from there’. They will develop their offensive game and I think it will get a lot better as well when Rooney gets back.
England look very solid and compact - maybe not so adventurous going forward, but you got a good result and you have something now to stand on and maybe now you will change and go much more offensively against Sweden and Ukraine.
How strong do you think England are compared to some of the other teams in the competition?
I think the advantage of the England team now is that, at least when I have been in London, people on the streets think they aren’t as great as they have done before and that means the pressure is not so big on the players. That is the biggest downer they always had: the pressure has always been too big during the tournaments, whenever they have been playing.
If you look player to player, maybe you would say that other teams looked a little bit better before, but now they don’t have the pressure on, maybe they will surprise a few people.
There are suggestions Hodgson will bring in Andy Carroll in attack, especially with talk about Sweden being vulnerable in the air and from set-pieces. Do you expect Carroll to play and are England right to target Sweden in the air?
I have heard that is the case and I was just speaking to a Swedish journalist who said that out of the last 11 goals Sweden have conceded, eight have been headers or set-pieces. I think Roy Hodgson has obviously seen that and to be fair to him has done his homework. Unfortunately, from a Swedish perspective, we were always strong in the air and solid at the back, so it is a bit surprising that this is the case now.
Steven Gerrard said yesterday in his press conference that if England play at the same level they did against France then they would beat Sweden. He also said “Sweden are not France”. What do you make of that?
That is his opinion. I think the only thing I would say about that is that England did not go very offensively against France so we don’t know what they can deliver defensively and that is what we will see tonight. There is a lot of history as well: Sweden haven’t really lost to England in the past in big tournaments. It is interesting. I am looking forward to the game and Gerrard as the captain has to do the best for his team and that is the main thing.
Do you think England have been prone to underestimating Sweden over the years?
When I played it was something like 32 years since England had last beaten Sweden and every time we played them the English media said, ‘Oh, we will beat them easily’, and they didn’t. For us that worked really well. We were like, ‘Okay, let them talk and put the pressure on the England team and we will get the result.’ I think that is how the English media works a little bit and the country is so football mad, they are always wanting to win. Sometimes it is a good thing – it has an influence in the game that maybe I wish we had in Sweden.
Freddie Ljungberg was speaking at the McDonald’s UEFA EURO 2012™ Player Escort event ahead of Sweden vs England in Kiev. McDonald’s is providing 682 children across Europe with a once in a lifetime opportunity to walk out hand in hand with their football heroes at every UEFA EURO 2012™ match, to find out about more Player Escort opportunities please visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/kickstart