Sweden claims bandy world title
Published: 26 Jan 2009 10:35 GMT+01:00
Updated: 26 Jan 2009 10:35 GMT+01:00
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The victory was especially sweet for retiring Swedish coach Anders Jakobsson and 38-year-old veteran forward Marcus Bergwall.
For Jakobsson, who took over as the team’s coach in 2005 following Sweden’s last bandy world title, the 2009 championship broke a streak of frustrating second place finishes.
“It’s such a relief. For me, this is absolutely huge,” Jakobsson told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
“I wouldn’t have died even if we had lost again. We’ve been close several times, but maybe we needed this time to become good enough that we could defeat a Russian team which is so unbelievably good.”
Considered a niche winter sport in most parts of the world, bandy is popular in Scandinavia and many countries of the former Soviet Union.
The sport, sometimes referred to as “field hockey on ice”, is played on a sheet of ice roughly the size of a football pitch and features a small ball rather than a puck. Each team has eleven players on the ice at a time, include a goalkeeper, who is the only player allowed to intentionally touch the ball with his head, hands, or arms.
Players advance the ball by passing to one another or by dribbling the ball forward as they skate towards the opposing net, looking for an opportunity to score a goal by shooting the ball past the goalkeeper.
In last year’s bandy world championships, held in Moscow, the Russian team defeated Sweden 6-1 to claim its 14th title, continuing the country's long dominance of the sport, which has held a world championship tournament since 1957.
But this year, Sweden took advantage of the home ice advantage to turn the tables on the Russians.
Early on, however, there were fears of a repeat Russian victory when at the 25 minute mark, Misja Svesjnikov gathered a loose ball and fired a shot past Sweden’s netminder.
But the veteran Bergwall, playing in his ninth world championship tournament, struck back four minutes later, bringing the Swedes back equal with the Russians.
Sweden’s assault on the Russian net continued in the second half, as the home team poured in five more goals, including a second by Bergwall, in the match’s final 25 minutes.
“I’ve been waiting for this match the whole year. What a bonus it ended up being,” a jubilant Bergwall said at a post-match press conference.
In celebrating the victory, Bergwall also announced his retirement from professional bandy.
“It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s a perfect end,” he told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
On it's way to the gold, Sweden posted victories against Finland, Kazakhstan, Norway, and Belarus in qualifying matches, as well as a 2-2 tie with Russia.
Sweden went on to defeat Kazakhstan 8-3 in the tournament semifinals, setting up the much anticipated revenge opportunity against Russia in the final.