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Chelsea out to maul Black Cats

Chelsea 14 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
May 24, 2006

Mellberg happy with Sweden's new adventure

Captain Olof Mellberg will be happy to see Sweden carry on adopting a more adventurous approach in the World Cup - even if such a policy burdens him with extra responsibility in Germany.

The Swedes have often been seen as a negative side, full of combative players who close down their opponents and leave them little room to operate.

That view is changing however as the country continues to produce attacking midfielders and forwards.

This has forced coach Lars Lagerback into a rethink of his tactics and he is once again expected to stick with his emboldened outlook in tomorrow's friendly match against Finland.

Mellberg, 28, is set to lead his team in the Ullevi Stadium clash with their Scandinavian rivals, Sweden's penultimate game before the start of the World Cup on June 9.

The Aston Villa defender may have less protection in front of him than in previous years but he believes it is the correct approach to take.

'If you have a midfield with players who like to have the ball and attack, that is what happens,' said Mellberg.

'More offensive players create more space in opposition defences.

'If you have an offensive team that likes to have a lot of ball, it is important to take advantage of that.

'But you also need to be flexible from game to game.'

Freddie Ljungberg, Kim Kallstrom, Christian Wilhelmsson and Mattias Jonsson are the kind of players given licence to push on from midfield and help the front two of Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

One defensive-minded player - usually Tobias Linderoth - is therefore charged with the role of protecting the back four.

Sweden only conceded three goals in qualification and Mellberg is confident the understanding built up between his defensive colleagues can bear fruit in Germany as his side prepare to face Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago and England in the group stages.

'Success (defensively) does not come automatically,' he added. 'It has worked well for several years.

'We just have to keep that going. For the team and the whole of Sweden, we want it all to go well.'

Ibrahimovic and Ljungberg are set to miss the Finland game.

Juventus striker Ibrahimovic could be rested ahead of the friendly with Chile next week while Ljungberg is nursing a foot problem.

Lagerback has moved to play down fears the Arsenal midfielder could miss next month's tournament as a result of the injury.

'Do not bet too much on that,' he said in response to suggestions Ljungberg's setback could be more long term.

Lagerback also revealed he would rotate his line-up in the two games before the finals begin next month.

'We have two matches to play, so you need to divide up the team a bit,' he said.

'I have a good picture in my mind of each player because we have been together for a long period now.'