Sweden denied draw by referee

Sweden 0-1 Croatia

The morning after the night before and Sweden was left contemplating a goal that could have been.

Alongside a shock free-kick and a bit of a scuffle, the highlights of Sweden’s second World Cup qualifier were concluded.

At Gothenberg’s Ullevi stadium on Wednesday night, Croatia’s Darijo Srna netted the winner with a 64th-minute free-kick.

When all is said and done, Sweden lost. But the attentions of the national press have naturally turned to the Spanish referee’s controversial 71st minute decision.

Ruling out an equaliser, the whistle blew for a foul by Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the Croatian keeper Tomislav Butina dropped the ball over the line.

“It is, above all, scandalous that a key match is concluded by a referee,” said a report in Wednesday’s Aftonbladet. “If he had consulted his assistant he would have known that Sweden’s equaliser was perfect.”

Following the 7-0 goal frenzy in their opening qualifier against Malta, Sweden were left frustrated by a tough Croatian defence and the opposition’s noticeable diving. Especially hot-tempered captain Olof Mellberg.

After the game, Mellberg told Expressen, ”If we had had a referee from England or some other league, it wouldn’t have been acceptable.”

In the 84th minute he picked up Croatia’s Josip Simunic from the ground with the impressive grip he once famously used against fellow countryman Fredrik Ljungberg.

Supporting the actions of the Swedish captain but doing nothing for the cause of peace on the pitch, Expressen commented, “How wonderful to show this sort of passion, to stand up for your team in this way.”

The road to the 2006 World Cup continues with nine matches to go. Sweden play Hungary at Råsunda on October 9.

Poland 1-2 Svengland

Olof Mellberg should try telling fellow Swede Sven Göran Eriksson that all’s fair in English football. Thanks to a Polish own goal, the England manager was saved his blushes, and possibly his job, after the fiasco in their opening World Cup qualifier against Austria.

Under fire Eriksson was pounded after his team squandered a two-goal lead in Vienna. Eriksson no doubt will be hoping his troops fair better against their future qualifying group opponents, the mighty footballing giants of Wales, Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland.

Christine Demsteader