So Euro 2016 is about to begin, at dfsdeal.com we’ll be taking a look at some of the teams in the tournament and break it all down from a fantasy football perspective. Let’s start off with one of the underdogs, Sweden. Sweden is playing in perhaps the hardest group of the tournament Group E, where they will be facing off against Belgium, Italy and Republic of Ireland.
The odds-makers currently has Sweden at 100/1 to win the Euros, and for good reason. Sweden has never managed to place in the top 3 at the European Championship. With their best placing being top 4 back on home soil in 1994. Back then they were lead in scoring by the prolific striker Tomas Brolin who scored in all but one match in the tournament. He then went on to lead Sweden to a bronze-medal in the World Championship in 1994. The Swedes will be hoping that Zlatan Ibrahimovíc can replicate such a feat this time around.
Which leads us to the star of the show, Ibra.
Sweden’s star player is without a shadow of a doubt; Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Some would argue that he’s coming off the best season in his career for PSG, scoring a mind boggling 50 goals, 15 assist in 51 games in all competitions according to Transfermarkt. That’d be 38 goals and 14 assists in Ligue 1.
But, as we all know players do not necessarily perform as well for their national team as they do on club level. So let’s take a look at his numbers on the international stage.
Zlatan has scored 62 goals in 112 games for his national side, that’s .55 goals a game. Almost as good as on the club level where he’s scoring at .59 goals a game (373 in 628)
In the European Qualifiers leading up to Euro 2016 he scored 11 goals in total. 3 of those goals coming in the crucial play-off games against rivals Denmark.
There is no doubt that Zlatan Ibrahimovic performs well on the international stage. The question is; is he worth it from a fantasy perspective?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has most certainly improved on club level throughout the years. Previously, when he was a younger up and coming player he also faced tough competition in the form of Henrik Larsson and Marcus Allbäck at the striker position(s). Now, there is no one even remotely close to Ibra’s level playing for Sweden and as such he has solidified his place in the starting lineup and the team has essentially been built around him – as it should be. Now, he is playing much better for Sweden and has taken full responsibility. He is the main penalty taker and free-kick taker even with quite a few skillful free-kick takers on the team, such as Sebastian Larsson and Kim Källström. Previously you could also add Rasmus Elm to that list who unfortunately will not be playing for Sweden this time around due to illness. Zlatan has done well from both the penalty spot and from set-pieces however so there has never been much doubt who should be taking them. It was in fact a curling free-kick that took Sweden to the Euros in the crucial game against Denmark in the playoffs.
The fact that Zlatan is the main man for Sweden, will be expected to score and provide for his teammates and take both penalties and free-kicks for his team makes him a good option, albeit a pricey one on most Fantasy Sports providers.
As for weaknesses? Zlatan Ibrahimovic previously had problems with his temperament earlier in his career and often got frustrated getting yellow and even red cards as a result. He has also never been afraid to play physically which has lead to some red cards in the past. The mental bit is something that he has cleaned up, he has definitely matured throughout the years. The physical part of his game is still the same though so don’t be too surprised if he picks up a card or two during the Euros.
The second weakness could perhaps be the supporting cast. Zlatan Ibrahimovic plays for a much less talented side than the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo to make a direct comparison. Whilst Cristiano Ronaldo is supported by the likes of Moutinho and Quaresma.. Zlatan will have to put his faith in the likes of Kim Källström (who assisted all the goals in Sweden’s crazy 4-4 comeback against Germany in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers) and Emil Forsberg of RB Leipzig.
As previously mentioned Sweden is playing in a very tough group consisting of Belgium, Italy and Republic of Ireland. Italy is lacking quite a few key players in midfield and the attack but their back-line is of the highest order with the Juventus trio of Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli. Italy has always had the stereotype of being a very defensive side, often times a bit undeserving if I may say so myself. But this time around, with key players missing such as Marco Verratti and Andrea Pirlo. There would be no surprise if Italy puts a lot of emphasis on defense rather than attack. The Republic of Ireland will be looking to do something similar. The point I’m getting to at is that some of the games in this group could very well end up being low-scoring and there’s no guarantee that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or Sweden for that matter will score a lot of goals.
The joker of the team if you will should be Emil Forsberg of RB Leipzig. He may have gone under the radar for most people as he has played most of his career at Swedish side Malmö FF and RB Leipzig of the German 2nd division who will play in the Bundesliga next year. He has 8 goals and 7 assists for RB Leipzig in the 2.Bundesliga and has scored 2 times and assisted 2 in the international qualifiers since making his debut for Sweden in 2014. Forsberg has rapidly improved and has quickly become a favorite amongst the Swedish supporters for his quick and direct style of play. The coach, Erik Hamrén has utilized Forsberg mostly on the left-wing of a 4-4-2 and he has linked up very well with Zlatan so far. Most recently he scored in Sweden’s international friendly against Wales after being assisted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
As a player, he’s always looking to create something on the offense. He dribbles a lot and as such draws a lot of free-kicks and penalties. As a winger, naturally he’s looking to cross the ball a lot and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Berg in the box there’s no reason why he shouldn’t.
Mikael Lustig, the Swedish fullback describes him the following way when asked about his play-style:
“– Very unswedish, he can get past his marker, has a good touch and he’s a smart player. It’s always good to have such a player. If the match isn’t going according to plan you know that anything can happen when he’s on the ball.”
Many pundits have called Sweden a one-man team but that’s not exactly true. There’s more to Sweden than that. They have a good mixture of experience and talented youth coming of a gold medal winning performance in the u21 World Cup. Here’s a few more players that we think could potentially have an impact this tournament:
- Victor Nilsson Lindelöf (Benfica)
A young player who has caught the eye of Barcelona and Bayern Munich scouts. He was part of the u21 World Cup winning side. He can play both in central defense and as a fullback, which means that if he’s listed as a center-back he could be a sneaky pick for your fantasy team. Out of all the center-backs available for Sweden he is perhaps the most technically gifted as well as the fastest. Keep in mind however that the coach Erik Hamrén has experienced heavily at the center-back positions leading up to the tournament and there’s no guarantee that he will be a starter, but if he will he could potentially be a hidden gem for fantasy teams.
- Kim Källström (Grasshopper, previously Lyon, Spartak Moscow)
An experienced midfielder who has always linked up well with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has always been a fan of the long-ball and he should be looking to pick out Zlatan Ibrahimovic plenty of times during the tournament. Defensively he is a liability however and isn’t afraid to tackle, so don’t be surprised if he picks up a few cards.
- John Guidetti (Celta Vigo)
A product of the Manchester City youth system who took the Netherlands by storm with his performance for Feyenoord in the Eredivise, scoring 20 goals in 23 games.
He now plows his trade with Celta Vigo in La Liga where he scored 7 times this season. He too was a part of the cup winning side of the u21 world cup. The coach, Erik Hamrén seems to prefer Marcus Berg in attack however, which means that John Guidetti will likely be coming on as a substitute in the second half of games if Sweden needs a goal. He has always been known as a good penalty-kick taker so if Zlatan for some reason cannot take the penalties, look for Guidetti to do so. It’s either him or Sebastian Larsson.
That’s it for this preview. I may update this further if more information becomes available.