Tag: Sweden

James Milner Makes John Terry Look Like Le Tissier

An extraordinary evening in Gothenburg saw the England under-21 team break a tournament jinx and make the final of the European Under-21 Championships with a penalty shootout win against the hosts Sweden last night. The England team hadn’t made the final of this competition prior to last night since winning it in 1984 but they have made the semi-finals of it five times since then, losing every time since then including a 13-12 defeat against the Netherlands two years ago. This, however, was a pretty remarkable evening all round, though. That it went to penalties in the first place was something of a surprise. England had raced into a 3-0 lead in the first half before being pegged back by three goals in thirteen minutes in the second half, none of which bodes particularly well for the blood pressure of England supporters in five or ten years’ time. In the middle of all this, Frazier Campbell was sent off for what might euphemistically be described as “a rush of blood to the head” (which manifested itself as a raash and dangerous tackle on Sweden’s Mattias Bjarsmyr to earn himself a second yellow card). He’s not the only one that will miss the final. Has there ever been a case of a goalkeeper being suspended from a match in a major tournament after being suspended for picking up two yellow...

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Russia Hour

After a certain, indefinable point, failure becomes a default option. Like the South Korean team who, for so long seemed capable of doing everything but winning a match in the World Cup finals, so it was with Russia. Would they ever get past the group stages of a major tournament again? The answer to that, finally, is yes, and they managed it some style this evening with a win against Sweden that was the best performance that I can remember having seen from either a Russian or Soviet team. The first half of the match was almost embarrassingly one-sided. Having brought in Andrei Arshavin into the team after he missed the first two matches due to suspension, they looked a transformed team and, whilst it’s probably fair to say that Sweden took about fifteen or twenty minutes to even turn up, this was a performance that will at least give the Netherlands pause for thought before their meeting with them in the quarter-finals on Saturday. Where, then, has it gone wrong for Sweden? Most people blelieved that they would get through this group with Spain, but it turns out to have been a tournament too far for many of their older players. Henrik Larsson may have shown profound irritation when he was reminded of this in a post-match interview by ITV last night, but the fact of the matter...

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Greece 0-2 Sweden

I don’t, with any conscience, have much time for ITV’s match summariser Jim Beglin. Unlike most other Liverpool players of the 1980s, I have no idea what he looks like (the fact that he has an Irish accent and is called Jim leads me involuntarily towards Jim McDonald out of “Coronation Street”), and I care for him even less than I did before after his pompous performance this evening during tonight’s match between Greece and Sweden. As Greece passed the ball around their defence towards the end of the first half, he unleashed a torrent of outrage at the fact that they weren’t committing many players forward that made my ears prick up. As it turned out, Jim got what he wanted, but surely I wasn’t the only person sitting at home willing the Greeks to a 0-0 draw that would frustrate the hell out of “football purists”, was I? I see no problem with them playing dour, defensive football. They know their limits, and they stick within them. They did this to devastating effect four years ago, when they bruised and battled their way to possibly the most unlikely tournament win in the history of international football, but it was too much to ask for a repeat of the heroics of four years ago his time around. It was somewhat apt that this meeting between the two oldest...

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Euro 2004 – Group D

Finally, Group D. One of the curiosities of media coverage of this group so far has been the enthusiasm with which writers have reached into their big bag of cliches. Spain are the perennial under-achievers (true, but no more than England are), Russia are the footballing equivalent of a massive bear wearing (without a hint of irony) a bear skin hat with a hammer and sickle badge in the middle of it, and Greece are the international equivalent of a group of footballing village idiots, pleased to be there and merely making up the numbers. The truth of the matter is somewhat more complex than this. Spain, this time around, have no excuses. They have Europe’s hottest striker, a team that is positively saturated with talent and a manager who, while he could probably still do with a few lessons in diversity, has been in the job for a few years and is settled in the role. The Russians remain something of an unknown quantity in most respects (apart from that they are better than England, not that this is saying much), and Greece will be likely to come into Euro 2008 with much the same game plan as they had four years ago. No-one could break them down then – will they be able to this time around? Greece – What Are Expectations Like? Well, they’re higher than...

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A Stroll In The Park

Germany 2-0 Sweden Well, it couldn’t have been much easier for them, could it? True enough, Germany were more or less home and dry within about a quarter of an hour, with Poboloski showing the sort of form that had been threatening to, and Ballack marauded around the middle third of the pitch with such purpose and single-mindedness that it was difficult to not think that the Germans have spent the last couple of years preparing The Ultimate World Cup Midfield Robot. He seemed to be malfunctioning somewhat towards the end, though: shooting every time he got the ball, no matter where he was. The second half was almost bizarrely one-sided, with Germans lining up to shoot at the almost defenceless Swedish goalkeeper, Isaksson. He must have been wondering where his defence was. The Germans hit the post twice and forced him into a string of fine saves. He alone deserved more out of this match than the first flight back to Stockholm tomorrow morning. As I said before, Germany were well on their way early on – they had a helping hand to make things easier, though. Teddy Lucic had already been booked when he committed an innocuous looking foul no the half-way line. Immediately, German players surrounded the referee and started brandishing imaginary cards at the referee who, to my astonishment, decided that he agreed with them...

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