Larsson playing for Sunderland in 2012
|Full name||Sebastian Bengt Ulf Larsson|
|Date of birth||6 June 1985|
|Place of birth||Eskilstuna, Sweden|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Playing position||Midfielder, right back|
|2006–2007||→ Birmingham City (loan)||27||(1)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 18:48, 16 August 2014 (UTC).
† Appearances (Goals).
After beginning his career at hometown club IFK Eskilstuna, Larsson was signed by Arsenal. He made three appearances for the Gunners, before joining Birmingham City, initially on loan for the 2006–07 season, before a permanent transfer in the summer of 2007. Larsson spent five years at Birmingham, experiencing promotion to, and relegation from, the Premier League on two occasions. He joined Sunderland on 1 July 2011 upon the expiry of his contract, after Birmingham suffered relegation. Larsson is renowned for being a set-piece specialist.
A full international since 2008, Larsson played for Sweden at the European Championship in 2008 and 2012.
Larsson was born in Eskilstuna and initially played football for his home-town team, IFK Eskilstuna. He joined Arsenal at the age of 16 courtesy of an Arsenal scout who watched him play a match for his country. Having been on the substitutes bench for a match against Panathinaikos, he made his first-team debut against Manchester City in the League Cup on 27 October 2004, where he played out of position at left back. He played in two further League Cup matches that season.
He made his Premier League debut on 1 February 2006, replacing Sol Campbell at half time as Arsenal lost 3–2 at home to West Ham United. Due to Campbell's defensive errors in that match, Larsson started the next two league matches at centre-back in his place, a 2–0 win at Birmingham City three days later, and a 1–1 draw at home to Bolton Wanderers on 11 February, in which he was substituted for Dennis Bergkamp as Arsenal sought their equaliser.
Larsson joined Birmingham City on a season-long loan from Arsenal in August 2006, with an option to make the move permanent. He made an immediate impact, scoring late winners in his first few games against Crystal Palace and Shrewsbury Town. He also scored two goals against Newcastle United in the FA Cup. At the end of January 2007, Larsson signed permanently for Birmingham City on a four-year deal for a £1 million fee. He scored Birmingham's goal of the season, against Sheffield Wednesday in April 2007, running half the length of the field with the ball and finishing from inside the goal area.
In the 2006–07 season Larsson was used mainly on the right wing, occasionally filling in at right-back or left-back when players were injured. His performances on the wide right of midfield in the 2007–08 season, in particular a man-of-the-match showing against Bolton Wanderers, indicated this to be his best position.
Recalled to the starting eleven by new manager Alex McLeish for the game at Tottenham Hotspur in December 2007, Larsson scored a spectacular stoppage time goal to give Birmingham their first away win in the Premier League for over three months. He scored half of his six goals that season with direct free kicks, two in consecutive games, against Tottenham and Portsmouth, and one from 30 yards (27 m) against Liverpool. With four weeks of the season remaining, Opta statistics rated Larsson as the most accurate taker of a direct free kick in the Premier League, though this ability failed to save Birmingham from relegation.
On the opening day of the 2010–11 season, Larsson recovered from what the Observer's reporter described as an "anonymous" start to provide assists for both Birmingham's goals as they drew 2–2 with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. He again provided an assist, this time for Craig Gardner, in his side's first home game, a 2–1 win against Blackburn Rovers. Away to Fulham on 27 November, Alexander Hleb made "a terrific run" and a "slide-rule" pass to Larsson, who opened the scoring with his first goal of the season, a low shot across the goalkeeper. The game finished 1–1.
Larsson played his part in Birmingham's run to the 2011 League Cup Final. He scored from the penalty spot before Nikola Žigić headed an 84th-minute winner in the quarter-final against local rivals Aston Villa. In the first leg of the semi-final against West Ham United, Liam Ridgewell scored from Larsson's corner before Victor Obinna was sent off for kicking Larsson in the groin in an off-the-ball incident. Despite speculation over his future at Birmingham – with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, his advisor was given permission to talk to Newcastle United about a proposed move during the January transfer window, but personal terms were not agreed, and the player was booed when he came on as a substitute in the previous game, against Manchester United – Larsson returned to the starting eleven in place of the cup-tied David Bentley and played 100 minutes as Birmingham overturned a 2–1 deficit to win the semi-final 4–3 on aggregate. Roger Johnson flicked on Larsson's corner for Žigić to give his team an unexpected lead in the final at Wembley against firm favourites Arsenal. Though Robin van Persie equalised, Obafemi Martins scored an 89th-minute winner to give Birmingham their first trophy since 1963 in what the Daily Mail described as "the biggest upset at Wembley since Wimbledon beat Liverpool to the 1988 FA Cup".
Larsson took advantage of a defensive mix-up to open the scoring as Birmingham beat Sunderland 2–0 at St Andrew's on 16 April, and four days later, marked his 200th appearance for the club in all competitions with a penalty, albeit in a losing cause, against reigning champions Chelsea. On 1 May, he exploited Michael Mancienne's mistake to score the equalising goal against Wolverhampton Wanderers, helping his side earn a point despite playing with ten men for more than an hour after Gardner was sent off. No new contract was agreed, and following relegation to the Championship, the club confirmed that Larsson was to leave at the end of the season when his existing deal expired.
On 22 June 2011, Sunderland confirmed that Larsson would join the club on a free transfer under the Bosman ruling on 1 July. linking up with former Birmingham manager Steve Bruce. He was given squad number 7 for the 2011–12 season. He marked his debut with the second-half equaliser in a 1–1 draw on the opening day of the season against Liverpool at Anfield, when given room at the far post to produce a "superb first-time angled volley". His second Sunderland goal, direct from a free kick, put his team 4–0 up against Stoke City at the Stadium of Light in their first win of the season. Larsson scored directly from another free-kick against Arsenal at The Emirates a month later, prompting Arsène Wenger to label his former player "maybe the best in the league as a free-kick-taker".
He scored the opening goal in Sunderland's 2–1 home defeat to Wigan Athletic on 26 November, which proved to be Bruce's last game in charge of the Black Cats. Sunderland visited Wolves the following week under caretaker manager Eric Black. With Sunderland 1–0 up, Larsson won a penalty, although replays suggested he dived. He subsequently had the penalty saved by Wayne Hennessey, and 25 seconds later, Steven Fletcher equalised for Wolves, and went on to add a late winner. Larsson made amends in the following game, scoring from a free kick against Blackburn in injury-time to secure a late 2–1 win in Martin O'Neill's first game as manager. Larsson scored another free kick on 8 January 2012 in the FA Cup in a 2–0 win against Peterborough United at London Road. In the fifth round tie with Arsenal, a quick counterattack from Sunderland saw Larsson hit the woodwork, and the ball subsequently hit Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to put Sunderland 2–0 up, and in to the quarter-finals. Larsson scored twice as Sunderland drew 3–3 with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on 31 March.
Larsson scored a screamer as his first goal of the 2012–13 Premier League season against West Ham United on 12 January 2013 in a 3-0 win. He provided the assist to Stephane Sessegnon's goal in Sunderland's 1-0 defeat of Everton on 20 April, pushing the club clear of the relegation zone. The strike against West Ham proved to be Larsson's only goal of the campaign, a season in which was underwhelming on both individual and club levels as Sunderland barely managed to avoid relegation.
His first goal of the 2013–14 season came on 6 November 2013, in a 2-1 win against Southampton in the League Cup. His first league goal of the season came against Manchester United on 3 May 2014, where he scored the only goal of the game. The result gave Sunderland their first win at Old Trafford since 1968. After contributing to Sunderland's escape from relegation, he was given a new contract to run until 2017.
Larsson received his first call-up to the Sweden squad for the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying games against Liechtenstein and Northern Ireland in October 2007. He was an unused substitute against Liechtenstein but did not make the bench for the Northern Ireland game. He made his debut for Sweden in February 2008, playing the whole 90 minutes of a friendly draw against Turkey in Istanbul. He was named in Sweden's 23-man squad for UEFA Euro 2008, and has since become a regular in the national team.
He scored his first goal at senior international level in March 2011 as Sweden beat Moldova 2–1 in a Euro 2012 qualifier. During the qualifiers in October, Larsson added two more goals to his international tally. The first was the opener in a 2–1 away victory over Finland in Helsinki and the second was a penalty as Sweden came from behind to beat Netherlands 3–2 on 11 October at the Råsunda Stadium in Stockholm. In February 2012, Larsson scored two second=half goals to down Croatia 3–1 at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb.
Larsson was selected in Sweden's squad for Euro 2012. He started all three of their group games, and scored the second goal in their 2–0 win over France, but Sweden did not make it through to the knockout stages of the competition.
- Scores and results list Sweden's goal tally first.
|1.||29 March 2011||Råsunda Stadium, Solna||Moldova||2–0||2–1||Euro 2012 qualifier|
|2.||7 October 2011||Helsinki Olympic Stadium, Helsinki||Finland||1–0||2–1||Euro 2012 qualifier|
|3.||11 October 2011||Råsunda Stadium, Solna||Netherlands||2–2||3–2||Euro 2012 qualifier|
|4.||29 February 2012||Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb||Croatia||2–1||3–1||Friendly|
|6.||19 June 2012||Olympic Stadium, Kiev||France||2–0||2–0||UEFA Euro 2012|
- As of match played 16 August 2014.
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