Hodgson to renew Sweden links in England match
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By ROB HARRIS
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Roy Hodgson went to Sweden 36 years ago to become a coach, and he'll get to show what he learned when England plays the Swedes at the European Championship on Friday.
England is looking to build on a 1-1 draw against France in the Group D opener to help its push for the quarterfinals, while Sweden is on the back foot after a 2-1 loss to co-host Ukraine on Monday.
Swedish football gave Hodgson the chance to coach for the first time following an unheralded playing career in England. He brought the 4-4-2 system with him, quickly producing two titles with Halmstad. The style of play was then widely replicated throughout the region.
"He came to Sweden unknown, but became a big name in Sweden because of the way he made the results and took some new influences into Swedish football," Sweden coach Erik Hamren said Thursday. "He is a big name in Sweden and we will never forget what he has done for Swedish football."
Hodgson was there for 14 years, aside from a brief stint with Bristol City, and left in 1990 after winning the league five times with Malmo.
"It's always nice to renew my acquaintances with Sweden, even if it forces me to look at (old) TV clips of me .... where I hardly recognize myself," Hodgson said. "That's one of the hazards of being in football for so long."
The advantage, though, is his knowledge of Sweden as a footballing nation. Unlike the England national team, Hodgson has tasted success against Sweden in competitive matches as an international coach.
"I've faced Sweden many times, three with Switzerland and once with Finland, and I've managed to achieve two victories and two draws," Hodgson said. "But this is the most important occasion for me."
While Hodgson is a student of Swedish football, Hamren stressed that the England players aren't exactly unknowns to him.
"I also know English football really well so we will see ... I hope he is going to have most of the headaches after the game," Hamren said.
But it wasn't only an evening of nostalgia for Hodgson in Kiev on Thursday night, as he was forced to defend the England team's technical ability.
In England's first Euro 2012 match against France, the team struggled to impose itself and failed to keep hold of the ball. Asked if English players lack technique, Hodgson responded emphatically: "No, I don't."
The former Inter Milan and Liverpool manager would concede that they need to be ruthless in front of goal.
"It's the point I've been making for 36 years with all the teams I've worked with," he said. "You work to get into the position to score a goal, and it depends on the quality of that final pass or ball.
"I would definitely question any suggestions we are lacking in any way and that our players are not technically good enough."
And he's been in the game long enough to draw that conclusion with conviction.
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris
Updated June 14, 2012