“We showed against the Netherlands that we could beat anyone,” said Elm, omitting to mention that it was the 3-2 victory over the Oranje in the final round of qualifiers that secured Sweden’s place at EURO 2012. As Elm explained, reaching Poland/Ukraine underlined the sense of unity and mental resolve that is prevalent in the Sweden squad. “The hallmark of the national side has always been our ability to fight for one another and play as a team,” said the international midfielder.
Erik Hamren’s side, moved to tears by the emotion of their win against the FIFA World Cup™ runners-up last October, is no exception to that rule. Indeed, despite the individual talents in the group, Lars Lagerback’s successor has made togetherness the overriding value, with we taking precedence over me. “We need these foundations, as they give us a benchmark and provide our strength,” explained Elm, ahead of his first appearance at a European championships.
All in the details
“Our mental strength and togetherness are our main weapons. The coach knows this and is always asking us to use them as our basis,” said the AZ Alkmaar linchpin. “He also insists on tactical intelligence in our play. Without all of that, we cannot hope to be competitive at the highest level.”
Sweden’s UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign featured 14 different goalscorers, and the Scandinavians know which strengths to play to if they are to recreate their showing at the 1992 finals, where they reached the semi-finals. Led by star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, top scorer in qualifying and deployed as a playmaker by Hamren, the Blagult still have a few days to fine-tune their set-up as they aim to atone for the disappointment of missing the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
“The warm-up matches against Iceland and Serbia will allow us to put into practice the tactical adjustments that we need to make. It will be very useful,” said Elm, a central midfielder who operates on the right or left for his national side. “I don’t think the physical aspect will be decisive, as all the teams will be well-prepared. It will come down to details such as positioning, defence and effectiveness in attack. We’ll be able to work on that before the opening match.”
At 24, former U-19 captain Elm is now a key component in the senior side, three years after he won his first cap. He has still yet to wear Sweden’s yellow-and-blue shirt at an international tournament, and is understandably eager to get started. But he is also relaxed, and is certainly showing no signs of nerves. “I see it, above all, as a great way to gain experience,” said Elm, a product of the youth set-up at former club Kalmar FF. “I will learn a lot while hoping for a starting role, whichever position that may be in. It’s a fantastic challenge.”