Lagerback: Russians were better
Russia were simply too good, admitted Sweden coach Lars Lagerback following the Russians' 2-0 defeat of his side in their final UEFA EURO 2008 Group D match, which put their rivals into the quarter-finals at the Swedes expense.
The 59-year-old also warned that Russia's quarter-final opponents Holland should not take them for granted.
"To concede two goals is not a disaster!" insisted Lagerback, whose side was fortunate not to receive a real thrashing. "We just don't have the same concept of the style of playing football.
"I am very sad, because we haven't been knocked out of the first round of a finals since EURO 2000. I am very disappointed by our inability to turn the match around. But that is football, sometimes you lose.
"It is, however, important to congratulate the Russian team, they were the better side today. They really are a very good team, and the 4-1 defeat by Spain in their opening match didn't reflect their real quality. They are very strong."
Lagerback, who has been involved with Swedish teams from youth level to the senior one for nearly 20 years, and has been in sole charge since 2004 when Tommy Soderberg retired, said he was still scratching his head over why his vastly more experienced side hadn't gone on the offensive more in the first-half once they went 1-0 down.
"Inexplicably, we were extremely passive in the first half, we just simply didn't even play in the first half," said Lagerback.
"We were really low, and it was hard to go on the offensive.
"We began to put something together before half-time, and our right and left wings began to find some space, but then the Russians scored their second (Andrei Arshavin in the 50th minute) and it became very difficult for us, even if we did try some different things like just having three in defence. It just wasn't our day," he admitted resignedly.
Lagerback, whose conservative tactics have served Sweden well but were exposed by the more adventurous approach of Russia's Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, rejected the theory that he should have selected a younger side for the match rather than including grizzled veterans like 36-year-old Henrik Larsson.
"We didn't lose because we had physical problems but because Russia were better than us," said Lagerback.
"A new generation is already on the way, but I always said it was necessary to take the best players and not simply based on age.
"The question of age, of experience, is simply not interesting, what counts is the quality of the players.
"Now we must recharge the batteries for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers."
Lagerback will certainly be able to count on the services of the seemingly ageless Larsson, who said he had no intention of retiring.
"No, its not the last time you will see me in a Sweden shirt," he said. "Yes I can go on till the 2010 World Cup finals but there are still the qualifiers to go."
However, Larsson couched it later in terms of whether the national set-up would still have need of him.
"If they still feel they need me in the national side, I will not retire."
While Larsson may not feel like calling it a day, there are several from the side that may think it is a good time to go with prime suspects being 35-year-old striker Marcus Allback, captain Freddie Ljungberg and defender Niclas Alexandersson, who is 36 and has won 109 caps.