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Ljungberg is back to lead Swede Euro challenge

PUBLISHED: 11:26 05 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:20 05 October 2010

By JONATHAN CLEGG FREDDIE Ljungberg has been cleared to captain Sweden in Euro 2008 after making a successful comeback from injury in his country s final warm-up game this week. The West Ham midfielder banished lingering fears over his fitness by playing

By JONATHAN CLEGG

FREDDIE Ljungberg has been cleared to captain Sweden in Euro 2008 after making a successful comeback from injury in his country's final warm-up game this week.

The West Ham midfielder banished lingering fears over his fitness by playing 45 minutes in Sweden's friendly defeat by Ukraine in Stockholm on Sunday.

Ljungberg had been unable to take part in the previous match against Slovenia following a broken rib suffered in the Hammers' Premier League clash with Newcastle in April.

But the 31-year-old came through the 1-0 loss to Ukraine thanks to a pain-killing injection and a chest guard to protect his rib from further damage.

And Ljungberg insists he is now fully fit to lead Sweden in Tuesday's Group D opener against Greece in Salzburg.

"I felt fine, I could have played much more," he said. "It is obviously a little sore now that the injection has worn off, but I could play 90 minutes no problem."

Ljungberg revealed that the protective chest pad had given him some discomfort and he was forced to remove the strapping late on.

But he is confident a solution will be found that will allow him to play without pain in Austria and Switzerland.

He said: "The tape came off. I will have to switch to another kind of tape at the Euros, but at that point in the game, it was a friendly so it worked out. I didn't get a knock."

More worrying for the Sweden captain was an abject performance against the Ukraine, who won the match when Serhiy Nazarenko fired home with eight minutes remaining.

Henrik Larsson's return to international football has raised hopes that Sweden can progress deep into the competition, but Ljungberg admits a significant improvement is required if they are to qualify for the knockout stages.

"It wasn't too good," Ljungberg said. "We talked about it after the game - we lost our balance in the team and we need to make sure we do a better job of maintaining that."

Ljungberg's club future has been the subject of speculation in recent weeks with reports circulating that West Ham are prepared to off-load the midfielder in order to trim the wage bill at Upton Park.

But the former Arsenal star has announced his intention to remain at the club next season and repay the Hammers for their attitude to his injury problems during the last campaign.

Ljungberg endured a stop-start season in east London, but he revealed that the club's treatment of unfit players is in marked contrast to the Gunners, who forced him to play through injury and then ushered him towards the exit.

He said: "I would like to stay [at West Ham] - if they offer of course.

"I still feel a bit offended about Arsenal. While I was being treated for the injury, they went out and found a different player for my position.

"At West Ham, no one gives you a puzzled look if you get called up for your national team and you are never asked to play on injections.


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