At the age of 36, Niclas Alexandersson is the third oldest outfield player at UEFA EURO 2008, but he shows no sign of slowing down just yet. Indeed, this tournament will bring back pleasant memories for the Gothenburg right-sided player, who made his international debut in Vienna 15 years ago.
Since then, Alexandersson has been an integral member of the Sweden team at the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups™, plus UEFA EURO 2000. The veteran is, therefore, in an ideal position to comment on how the class of 2008 measures up to former teams.
"If you think about us ten years ago, we didn't score many goals, but now we're more of an attacking team, with a lot of good individual players, but we're still trying to find the perfect balance between attack and defence," he told FIFA.com.
"The one thing we've gained since the last World Cup is experience. We've been to four consecutive championships and that is very important in order to be successful at a tournament like this one. We've always been successful and consistent in qualifying under Lars Lagerback, but in my opinion we've haven't fulfilled our potential in the tournaments themselves, so we're looking to put that right."
Alexandersson, who helped his club to the 2007 Allsvenskan championship was traditionally used as a winger for the majority of his career, but found himself playing at right-back during Germany 2006. That is the position in which he may start against Greece in Innsbruck on Tuesday, in a tournament which may witness the end of his international career.
One more last hurrah
The former Sheffield Wednesday star, who became the fourth Swedish player to reach a century of caps against Iceland in a EURO 2008 qualifier last year, will be 38 by the time South Africa 2010 approaches and feels that this could be his last.
"I'm coming towards the end of my career, but I've been saying that for a few years now, so I'll be approaching this tournament as if it's my last," he smiled. "However, I didn't expect to still be in the national team when I moved from England to Sweden four years ago. !"
Therefore, the games against Greece and Russia in Innsbruck, with the meeting with Spain in Salzburg sandwiched in between, could be the final opportunity for football fans to see the Swedish No7 in action for his country. Yet, could this be the one where Alexandersson finds himself with a winner's medal? He certainly hopes so.
"It's a tough group, but they're all tough groups - which you'd expect at any major tournament," he said. "The first target is to progress from the group, but that's not our overall objective. On a good day, we can beat anyone, but in order to win it, we need six good days - but that is not impossible."