Sweden 5-0 Finland: Ibrahimovic off the bench to score a hattrick as Finland are demolished

June 8, 2011

The starting line-ups. Ibrahimovic came on after 25 minutes and took the place of Toivonen, with Elmander dropping deeper

Sweden kept up their excellent record in 2012 qualifying with a convincing win over neighbours Finland.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic hadn’t fully recovered from injury, so started on the bench – but came on after 25 minutes when Ola Toivonen picked up a knock. Erik Hamren only made one change from the 4-1 win over Moldova, as Emir Bajrami replaced Tobias Hysen on the left.

Mixu Paatelainen dropped Veli Lampi and Jukka Raitala after the narrow 1-0 win over San Marino, bringing in Roman Eremenko and Joona Toivio. He also left out goalkeeper Lucas Hradecky, with Anssi Jaakkola coming in.

Sweden were dominant for the entire game – Finland were not awful with the ball and created some decent chances, but were shambolic defensively, and 5-0 wasn’t harsh on the away side.

Finland attempt to play

Finland tried to play good football, but the difference in quality meant an open game didn’t suit them. They tried to play out from the back, they wanted to keep a reasonably high line, and they attempted to make the pitch as wide as possible when in possession, but all these factors helped Sweden break quickly when they won the ball.

Sweden were allowed to control the game from deep in midfield, as Anders Svensson and Kim Kallstrom played calm, short passes towards the attacking players, taking it in turn to move forward a little on the ball. Generally, Roman Eremenko stayed deep and kept an eye on Toivonen (and Johan Elmander, who dropped into that position once Ibrahimovic replaced Toivonen), whilst Mika Vayrynen played higher up, ready to track either Kallstrom or Svensson. This meant one of them was always free, however, and with little help from the front two, Finland were always likely to lose the numbers game in midfield.

Sweden threat

Despite Finland’s vulnerability, Sweden took a while to start causing Jaakkola consistent problems. They went ahead through a fortunate goal – Kallstrom’s free-kick (like Tranquilo Barnetta’s against England at the weekend) missed everyone in the box, and went all the way in. Finland had consistent problems with the Lyon player’s set-piece delivery, though – they later conceded their fourth goal when Ibrahimovic nodded in another Kallstrom free-kick.

It was Ibrahimovic’s introduction that really spurred Sweden on – he lifted the crowd and played higher up the pitch than Elmander. His movement was also better -he was more willing to play on the shoulder, to move into the channels. Kallstrom’s through ball to him was finished confidently moments after he came on. His second, and Sweden’s third, was scored when Sweden took advantage of sloppy Finland play at the back – again, they passed the ball out from a goal kick, but the passes were slow, predictable and dangerous, and they paid the price.

Finland tactics

Finland were sometimes a threat with the ball. They had two promising tactics – first, one of their forwards dropped deep and tempted Daniel Majstorovic out. He dived into tackles and Finland had the chance to move into the space behind him.

The second approach was a product of their width – they got the ball out wide and then flashed crosses across the goal from near the byline – good centres were put in by Toivio from the right and Perparim Hetemaj from the left, and also by substitute Mika Ääritalo after the break. The movement from the forwards wasn’t good enough, though – Mikael Forssell often seemed a couple of yards behind play.

Second half

Two substitutions at half time smacked of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic for Finland, with Ääritalo and Markus Halsti both coming on – though Finland remained in roughly the same shape.

And it was roughly the same pattern of play – Ibrahimovic’s header was followed by Emir Bajrami’s late goal on the break, but the game was over by half time.


The two most talented players on the pitch did the damage here – Ibrahimovic got three goals and one assist, Kallstrom got one goal and two assists. Sweden did nothing spectacular but played confidently and professionally.

The tactical interest came from Finland’s failings – Paatelainen should be admired for his commitment to playing open, expansive football, but it’s probably not the right approach when you’re away from home against such a superior side. Finland played too wide – they needed their wider players to tuck in and help win the ball back – and their forwards were guilty of not doing enough without the ball, which meant that (a) they lost the numbers game in midfield and (b) there was no pressure on the ball when the defence was trying to play high up the pitch.

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