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Sweden planning to hit Spain on the counter

SoccerNews in European Championships, La Liga 13 Jun 2008

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Sweden midfielder Freddie Ljungberg said Friday that his team would be looking to keep things tight and punish Spain on the counter-attack in the pair's Group D clash here on Saturday.

Sweden got off to a great start in the tournament, beating holders Greece just three days ago, but Spain positively bristled in their 4-1 thrashing of Russia and have been one of the most impressive sides so far.

And Ljungerg admitted that Sweden would not be going gung-ho in trying to beat their Iberian opponents.

“It's a big challenge of course, I'm used to playing with Arsenal so I know how Spain play,” said the now West Ham player.

“For us the important thing is when we get the ball we have to be patient, use our pace, technique and passing ability to counter against them.

“In general Spainish teams are better going forward than defending, they enjoy it more when they go forward.

“We need to (counter) very well, not concede and then attack when we get the ball.”

Ljungberg singled out Fernando Torres as Spain's player to watch and praised the Liverpool man for his fine first season in English football, in which he scored 33 goals.

Asked why Torres had been so successful he replied: “Torres is a brilliant player. When he came to Liverpool he was playing with more world class players, no disrespect to Atletico (Madrid) but they (Liverpool) went far in the Champions League.

“It's his first season in England and normally it takes some time to adapt to the more physical game but he's done really well and I have to applaud him for that.”

As for his former Arsenal team-mate Cesc Fabregas, though, Ljungberg said he wasn't too surprised the midfielder was being kept out of the team.

Barcelona's Xavi occupies the playmaker role in the centre of the park and Spain coach Luis Aragones feels there is only enough room for the one of them.

Even so, when he wanted to shore up the midfield against Russia, he removed Torres and put Fabregas on in his place, with the 21-year-old scoring his first goal for his country late on.

“We will wait and see if Cesc plays. He's a great player but there are a lot in Spain and I'm not the guy to judge who should play and shouldn't,” said Ljungberg.

“They left Raul at home and he's quite good too. They played really well when he (Cesc) wasn't on the pitch and when he was they played really well too. I think he's a great player.”

Another great player is the ageless Henrik Larsson, who even at 37 years old is still plying his trade for Sweden at the top level.

Coach Lars Lagerback explained that Larsson has earned his place in the squad.

“The reason Henrik is back (in the squad) is because he deserves his place,” said Lagerback.

“We played him from the start in the last game. If you're from Spain then you've seen him at Barcelona, he's an excellent player, he can link the game and get other players to play well both offensively and defensively.

“He's got a good understanding of the game, he deserves to be in our team.”

Larsson should link up again with Inter Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack as Largerback revealed the forward of Bosno-Croat heritage should overcome a knee problem to take his place in the side.

However, he also revealed that he may rest certain players with one eye on their last group game against Russia.

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