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10 June 2016

Will our man shine in France?

Name: Martin Olsson
Age: 28
Nation: Sweden

Road to the Euros

Martin Olsson and Sweden's qualifying campaign got off to a solid start in September 2014 when they drew 1-1 away to eventual group winners Austria.

The left-back remained in Erik Hamren's eleven for the draw with Russia and the 2-0 win over Liechtenstein, but he missed the game against Montenegro that November.

Wins over Moldova and Montenegro, with Olsson featuring in Chisinau, put Sweden in a promising position in Group G but defeat versus Russia and a heavy 4-1 loss at home to Austria set them back.

Victories over Liechtenstein and Moldova - Olsson completed 90 minutes in each game - secured them a play-off spot, for which they were drawn against Scandinavian rivals Denmark.

Olsson started as Sweden took a slender first leg lead after goals from Emil Forsberg and star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped them win 2-1 in Stockholm.

An entertaining second leg saw the teams share a 2-2 draw, with Sweden progressing to their fifth successive Euros with a 4-3 aggregate triumph.

Q&A - Simon Bank, Swedish football writer

Q: What was Martin’s form like during the qualifiers for the Euros?

He did well when fit and in top condition. At times, the whole defence struggled a bit, but Olsson was never really singled out for criticism.

Q: How important is Olsson in Erik Hamren’s team?

When he first burst onto the international scene he was a vital part of Sweden’s attacking play, with his constant running. Over the last few months competition has been increasingly tough for the left-back spot and while still being first choice, his place in the starting line-up is no longer taken for granted.

Q: What do you think are Martin’s best qualities as a player?

His physique, his frequent running, his one-on-one-skills at both ends, and the fact that he is naturally attack-minded.
Q: How much of an impact do you think Martin could have at the Euros?

He is expected to start out as coach Hamren's first choice left-back, but in all honesty, no-one really knows what to expect . Neither the team nor Martin. Expectations are running high at the moment, after a few good games, but the team remains dependent on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s genius. Olsson has always been at his best when the team plays as a unit, allowing him to take on defenders and cross.

Where and when?

After their opening game against the Republic of Ireland on Monday, June 13 in Paris, Sweden face Italy in Toulouse on Friday, June 17 before taking on Belgium in Nice on Wednesday, June 22.

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