Milan's 'Gre-No-Li’ trio of Swedish legends.

Each week in the Cutter we’re turning our attentions to a nation participating in this summer’s Euros. This time out it’s those sensible Swedes.

We decided to select an all-time greatest XI who have graced the iconic Blågult and almost immediately regretted it. Firstly because throughout their 104 year history Sweden has produced a surprisingly scant number of genuinely great defenders. Secondly because they’ve consistently knocked out a multitude of fantastical attacking options.

Maybe they’re not so sensible after all.

Further regret came when we leaked a few of our choices on Twitter. “No Larsson? The Swedes adore him. They’ll pickle you and serve you up as a smorgasbord.”

“No Hamrin? But he’s the 7th highest ever goal-scorer in Serie A.”

The omission of the latter was particularly difficult but I felt the side needed balance and reluctantly opted for a holding midfielder at his expense.

Feel free to open your pickling jars in the comments box beneath but I believe this side – with a subs bench of Ravelli, Hysen, Andersson, Hamrin and Larsson – would give any dream-team a serious run for their krona.

1/ Ronnie Hellström

Voted Europe’s best goalkeeper four times during the 1970s and was selected for the World Cup Greatest XI in 1974 which is no mean feat when you consider that tournament was also graced by Sepp Maier and Dino Zoff.

Hellström began at Hammarby IF before playing the baulk of his career in Germany with Kaiserslautern. Aside from his presence, agility and unerring knack for getting his fingertips to top-corner-bound rockets he was also the most Swedish looking man ever born.

As Swedish as…. Alfred Nobel. Calm and unflappable yet capable of producing dynamite.

2/ Roland Nilsson

Nilsson represented Sweden on 116 occasions – a record for an outfield player – and though I only saw a handful of these games I’m assuming he never let them down once. He was that sort of player.

Nilsson is best known for his stints in England, particularly his time with Sheffield Wednesday in the early-nineties, a team that was a joy to watch with John Sheridan spraying it about the park and Chris Waddle twinkling and twisting down the flanks. Famously they reached both domestic cup finals in ’93 – with Arsenal pipping them on each occasion – and a significant reason for their success was down to the assured, ever-reliable performances of their right-back brought in from IFK Göteborg for an absolute steal of £375,000. Ron Atkinson described him as the ‘best professional I ever worked with’ but it goes far beyond that; Nilsson was class personified and, arguably, the finest practitioner of the right-back role in the Premier League’s short history.

As Swedish as…. Saab. Smooth, reliable and classy but let’s not forget the company also manufactures fighter jets. Nilsson could fly down the touchline with the best of them.

3/ Erik Nilsson

A one-club man Nilsson played 336 times for Malmo and his international career spanned Sweden’s golden years and a world war, finishing fourth at the 1934 World Cup before triumphing at the 1948 London Olympics. In Brazil 1950, now a seasoned pro in his mid-thirties he was elected into the All-Star team of the tournament as the Swedes came so close again to ruling the world with a third place.

As Swedish as… the Djurgården Bridge. Elegant, ever-dependable and untouched by the war.

4/ Bjorn Nordqvist

The Scandinavian rock at the heart of the national defence throughout the 60s and 70s Nordqvist also represented his country at ice hockey and bandy (which essentially is both football and ice hockey combined). He won the Allsvenskan with IFK Norrköping before heading to foreign fields and amassing silverware at PSV Eindhoven. His 115 caps for Sweden is third only in number to Thomas Ravelli and Roland Nilsson.

As Swedish as… Playwright August Strindberg. Undoubtedly great but very hard to get through.

5/ Ovar Bergmark

A switch to the centre for right-back Bergmark because, despite their rich football heritage, Sweden have a surprising dearth of truly great centre-backs. Seriously, I nearly picked Glenn Hysen.

Even so Bergmark is selected entirely on merit; a granite-tough Swedish legend who was an integral part of the fantastic ’58 World Cup side who so nearly won it on home soil only to be undone in the final by a 17 year old Pele. After being voted the best right-back in the tournament (and winning the Guldbollen – the Swedish player of the year award) Bergmark was one of a handful of that great team who left for Italy soon after where he spent two successful seasons with Roma. Following retirement he coached the national side that he represented ably on 94 occasions during a playing career that spanned twenty years.

As Swedish as… Max von Sydow. Revered in Scandinavia. Not so well known internationally.

6/ Jonas Thern

With the abundance of attacking wealth ahead of him this team needs someone to patrol the midfield areas, working his knäckebröds off. Step forward Jonas Thern, the national skipper for most of the 90s and someone who may not have possessed the pedigree or genius of some of his peers here but was certainly the most widely travelled. His stylish, understated ‘water-carrying’ was appreciated at home with Malmo, then Switzerland with Zurich, in Portugal with Benfica, in Serie A with Roma and finally in Glasgow for Rangers before injury curtailed his midfield bolstering. The 1989 Swedish Footballer of the Year led his country to another third place at the 1994 World Cup and amassed 75 caps.

As Swedish as… Bjorn Borg. With the minimum of fuss and surrounded by mavericks he simply got the done job better than anyone else.

7/ Lennert Skoglund

Proud owner of one of the best nicknames in football history – “The swaying corn-cob”, a reference to his blond hair and his running style – Skoglund was born to entertain. Whether it was dazzling the Inter fans at the San Siro throughout the 1950s with his nutmegs and trickery or touring amusement parks in Sweden during the summer singing and performing his famed ‘Two-Crown’ party-piece where he would drop a coin then volley it into his shirt pocket. Nacka – as he was also affectionately known – was a showboater extraordinaire who began his career as an inside-left before drifting out wide where the touchline became the edge of his stage. He died in poverty aged just 45 and each year on his birthday (Dec 24th, the day that Swedes celebrate Christmas) hundreds of people pay their respects at the statue built outside his childhood home.

As Swedish as… Abba. Thank you for the music Nacka.

8/ Nils Liedholm

The Swedish prince and pass-master Liedholm is widely viewed as the greatest footballer that Sweden has ever produced. Captain of the great Milan side of the 1950s (that also contained fellow Swedish legends Nordahl and Gren, the trio becoming known as ‘Gre-No-Li’) he guided them to four scudettos as an elegant colossus pulling the strings with such artful efficiency, so the story goes, that when he eventually misplaced his first pass in two years the San Siro rose and gave him a five minute standing ovation.

After giving Milan 18 years of silver service he became a well-respected coach, bringing yet another league title to his beloved Rossoneri in 1979 from the dug-out.

As Swedish as… Nils Liedholm. Nothing and nobody is comparable to Il Barone.

9/ Gunnar Nordahl

The second highest Serie A goalscorer of all-time with a quite frankly ridiculous strike-rate for AC Milan that totalled 225 in 257 matches Nordahl was as prolific a striker as the game has ever seen. From his debut for lowly Hornefors IF in 1937 to his swansong at Roma in the late 50s he found the back of the net with the same regularity that you and I might put the kettle on.

For a significant period Sweden had a policy of not selecting players who had moved overseas. This was unquestionably their loss as, once the ruling was lifted, Il Cannoniere bagged 43 in 33 games for his country.

As Swedish as…. Gustavus Adolphus. The king who ruled during the emergence of the Swedish Empire.

10/ Zlaton Ibrahimovic

For a player who has cost more than £120m in transfer fees, been awarded the Guldbollen an astonishing six times, and has won major silverware for five clubs in three different countries it is amazing to consider just how any detractors Ibrahimovic still has. Some mistake his loitering for laziness and though it’s undeniable that the outspoken giant hardly covers every blade of grass with Ibra it is all about quality over quantity. There is however little excuse for his Zorro-styled goatee.

As Swedish as… Ikea. Gets a bad rep but fortunes are spent there.

11/ Gunnar Gren

A deep-lying second striker before such a role was even invented he was part of the famous ‘Gre-No-Li’ trio of forwards at AC Milan and the Swedish national team. Gren won numerous honours including an Olympic Gold in ’48, a Guldbollen in 1946, and was a key figure in Sweden reaching the 1958 World Cup final.

During his time with the Rossoneri he was a playmaker supreme fast gaining the nickname ‘Il Professore’ for his intelligent movement and guile.

As Swedish as… Ingmar Bergman. Gren regularly directed art-house football.