With five minutes to go in this match, you had to feel some sympathy for the Swedes. For 175 minutes, they’d battered their oppositions, doing everything except for putting the ball in the back of the net. Then, in one moment, the Paraguayan defence was opened up, Freddie Ljungberg scored, and justice was done.
For a team that needed a win to be all but certain of going out, Paraguay played appallingly defensively. How many teams are going to try the same thing this summer? Turn up, do the bare minimum to stay in the tournament, and then depend on getting a result in their final match to go through? To be fair, Bobadilla, the Paraguayan goalkeeper, deserved better, even if very few of his team-mates did. He made brilliant saves from Kallstrom and Larsson, and when he was beaten in the second half by Allback, Caniza raced ack to hack the ball back from the goal-line. He received a smack in the moouth from the frame of the goal for his troubles. They seemed fated not to score until Larsson intelligently headed across the goal for Ljungberg to keep Sweden’s hopes of winning the group alive.
The question is, of course, this: where does it leave England? Well, Sweden are unlikely to get as many chances as the seventy-odd that they have missed in their first two matches against England, so there is reason for England to be optimstic. We will also know twenty-four hours before hand what we have to do. I think that England should play their strongest team, and that they should play to win the match. My suspicion is that Sweden will be a tougher test than Paraguay or T&T. England can’t afford another performance like the first two if they want to have a run in these finals.
Sweden got what they deserved from this match. They were, again, wasteful in front of goal, and they can’t afford to be again on Tuesday, or they may even let Paraguay in throught the backdoor. For now, I can’t see them getting much further than the second round, but I don’t think we’ve seen the best of them yet.