Wales well beaten by Sweden ahead of Euro 2016 opener

Date published: Sunday 5th June 2016 6:09

Aaron Ramsey: In action against Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Aaron Ramsey: In action against Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Wales’ preparations for their Euro 2016 opener against Slovakia did not go according to plan as they were beaten convincingly 3-0 by Sweden.

Emil Forsberg and Mikael Lustig rewarded Sweden’s superiority in Stockholm by scoring either side of half-time.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic had pulled the Swedish strings before his departure on the hour, while John Guidetti rounded off a comfortable victory three minutes from time.

With their Euro 2016 opener against Slovakia just six days away, Wales protected Gareth Bale by keeping him on the bench until the 64th minute.

Wales had been anonymous in attack until that point, but they improved after Bale’s arrival and Aaron Ramsey and Emyr Huws both went close to consolation goals.

This was Wales’ only pre-Euro 2016 warm-up game as manager Chris Coleman had wanted to spend more time with his players on the training ground before the tournament in France.

Sweden had played six days earlier but, like Wales, they had failed to win any of their previous three games and were also in need of a confidence boost before the Euros.

History was not on Wales’ side as they had lost their last five matches to Sweden since holding the hosts to a goalless draw at the 1958 World Cup.

Ibrahimovic was a huge influence throughout a first half in which Sweden dominated territory and possession, even if Wayne Hennessey in the Wales goal had little to do apart from collect a few crosses.

Martin Olsson fired wide inside the opening 30 seconds and Sweden’s size meant they were an obvious threat at set-pieces, Mikael Lustig diverting Kim Kallstrom’s fifth-minute corner over the crossbar.

The alarm bells were really ringing for Wales as Forsberg slipped through Marcus Berg, but Wales captain Ashley Williams took up a superb position to block the striker’s goalbound effort.

Ibrahimovic gave Wales another warning when he curled wide from 20 yards but he failed to find the target with one of his trademark free-kicks after David Vaughan had brought down Forsberg on the edge of the box.

Wales were hoping to escape injuries with their opening Euro 2016 game against Slovakia just six days later.

But there were a few worries as Ashley Williams limped away from one challenge, Vaughan was sent crashing to the turf by Ibrahimovic in a physical mismatch and Jonathan Williams took Olsson’s cross flush in the face.

All three were fine to continue but – after Wales survived a penalty shout against James Chester for handball – Sweden seized the lead.

Ibrahimovic pounced on a mix-up on the Wales right and advanced to the edge of the area to roll the ball into Forsberg’s path.

The Leipzig midfielder made no mistake to beat Hennessey’s outstretched arm with a low shot for his second international goal.

Wales handed Danny Ward his second cap as Wayne Hennessey made way at the break and he was almost picking the ball out of the net within three minutes.

Berg broke beyond the Wales defence and lofted the ball over Ward, expecting to take the plaudits until Chester just about stopped the ball crossing the line by the post.

Lustig saw his shot blocked by the head of Ben Davies but the Celtic defender was not to be denied after 57 minutes when Ward, having pushed out two efforts on his line, could not keep out his shot at the near post.

Wales were seeking some inspiration and they almost got it when substitute Huws picked out Bale, who tried his luck from 30 yards.

Huws, who has not been named in Wales’ 23-man squad for the Euros, was having a significant impact and he almost set up Bale again after breaking down the right.

The sight of Bale had obviously lifted Wales and substitute goalkeeper Robin Olsen just did enough to keep out Ramsey’s free-kick at the far post.

But Wales were punished again three minutes from time when Guidetti beat Williams to a bouncing ball and beat Ward, even though the goalkeeper got a hand to his shot.

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