Monday 18 December 2017

Swedish stalwart Kallstrom vowing to end on a high in France

Kim Kallstrom remains a major cog in the Sweden side Picture: Press Association
Kim Kallstrom remains a major cog in the Sweden side Picture: Press Association

John Fallon

Although known best these parts for his farcical loan stint at Arsenal two years ago, Kim Kallstrom remains a major cog in the Sweden side, and he wants to bow out of international football on a high.

Kallstrom, captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic and goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson are the elder statesmen of a side whose average age has reduced following the integration of graduates from their U-21 side which won the Euros last year.

Manager Erik Hamren still has a number of choices to make in his starting team but, as their preparations continued yesterday in the idyllic surrounds of Saint-Nazaire on the west coast of France, it was crystal clear that Kallstrom would be anchoring Sweden's midfield.

This will be Kallstrom's fourth European Championship finals, having soldiered alongside the likes of Henrik Larsson and Freddie Ljungberg at major tournaments, and he has urged his budding comrades to seize the chance they have available to progress in the competition.

"For us, I think we must play with our minds as well as our feet," said the 33-year-old, these days playing in Switzerland for Grasshoppers.

"We did exactly that in the play-off against Denmark, when we were not fancied but came through to qualify. Ireland might have been known as team with a British style but they have improved as a team and recorded some brilliant victories on their way to qualifying. They know how to take risks and we must be ready for them."

Fellow veteran Ibrahimovic is also looking at the group with a positive mindset. Sweden's hopes rest heavily on the Manchester United target and, if his mood personifies the squad's, then Martin O'Neill side have a challenge on their hands.

"We are the underdogs for qualifying from the group," outlined the 34-year-old.

"There is some tough competition in our group but we must believe in ourselves because I'm sure we will succeed.

"Nobody gave us a chance against Denmark and look what happened. We beat them to qualify for the Euros. Anything can happen at the finals. We have worked hard in preparation and will go into the tournament full of confidence."

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