WALES’ final pre-Euro 2016 friendly turned into a painful exercise as they crashed to a heavy defeat by Sweden yesterday afternoon.
sweden - 3
Forsberg 40, Lustig 57, Guidetti 87
Wales - 0
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, the former Celtic striker, 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.
“We know we can be better than that,” said the manager afterwards. “We get a bit of success, a bit of expectation, sometimes a little bit of complacency and that can give you a little slap in the face.”
Coleman added that he would have liked his team to be “more streetwise”. He explained: “We were a little bit naive, which would be my criticism today. We saw how many times they fouled us on the counter-attack to break it up. There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s international football.
“Normally we do a lot to be a bit more streetwise on the pitch, like Sweden were.”
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.
Ibrahimovic was inevitably 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, Celtic’s Lustig diverting Kim Kallstrom’s fifth-minute corner over the crossbar.
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 Sweden soon 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 former Aberdeen loan goalkeeper Danny Ward his second cap as Hennessey made way at the break. But he was picking the ball out of the net within 13 minutes when, having pushed out two efforts on his line, he couldn’t keep out Lustig’s shot at the near post.
The sight of Bale coming on lifted Wales and the visitors had a few sights of goal thereafter. But their defence was punished again three minutes from time when Guidetti beat Williams to a bouncing ball and then beat Ward, even though the Liverpool goalkeeper got a hand to his shot.