Russell Osman: You can never take the Scandinavian sides for granted

ENGLAND can’t afford to abandon their pragmatic principles against Sweden tonight.

That’s according to former Ipswich Town and England defender Russell Osman, a man who knows all too well the threat that the Scandinavian nations can pose on the international stage.

Osman – along with Town team mates Paul Mariner and Mick Mills – was part of the Three Lions side that suffered an infamous 2-1 World Cup Qualifying defeat to Norway in 1981.

And while Sweden may appear to be a side in disarray, with reports of factions in the camp following a shock 2-1 defeat to Ukraine in their group opener, Osman has sounded a note of caution to those England supporters calling for a gung-ho approach.

Town’s Under-18 manager, who earned nine caps for his country, said: “You can’t take anyone for granted at this level of football.

“Ever since we lost that game to Norway, I think the gap between England and the Scandinavian sides has got smaller and smaller year-after-year. On their day any of them can prove to be a match for anybody.”

With England having gone 12 games without victory against Sweden until a 1-0 friendly win last year, Osman continued: “Although England’s approach against France wasn’t the most exciting, it’s always important to make sure you don’t start off with a defeat. A point was a good result.

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“There has been mixed opinions on the squad that was selected and the tactics that have been employed, but at the end of the day it’s Roy Hodgson’s team and he’s got them playing well as a unit.

“We’ve got one of the best goalkeepers at the tournament in Joe Hart and I think the back four is looking really strong. When you get those solid foundations at the back then it always gives you a chance at international level.

“I’d like to see a similar approach for the Sweden game. People are talking about being more adventurous against a supposedly weaker side, but if you are too aggressive about trying to win the game then you can leave yourselves open to conceding early.

“In Zlatan Ibrahimovic they have a very dangerous player and the last thing we want to do is leave ourselves with a mountain to climb.

“It may well have to be case of hard-work and organisation again, remaining patient and waiting for the right moment to try and nick a goal.”