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WORLDCUP

Sweden flat in final friendly

If Sweden's final warm-up game before the World Cup Finals begin in Germany in a week was meant to send out a signal to their group opponents, it was not the one that coach Lars Lagerbäck was hoping for.

A lacklustre performance against Chile at Råsunda ended 1-1, and it was the South Americans who had the best chance of winning the game.

These sorts of games are always cagey affairs, but the Swedish public and media was hoping for a display to buoy confidence before next Saturday’s opener against Trinidad and Tobago.

Instead, Anders Svensson seemed lost in central midfield, Christian Wilhelmsson failed to make an impact on the flank, and the back four played as if they had just been introduced to each other in the dressing room before kick-off.

Nevertheless, there were positives to be taken from the game. The Swedes began with the eleven likely to start in German and, despite a quiet first 15 minutes, Freddie Ljungberg settled in and delivered a series of deep passes until he was substituted at half time.

Henrik Larsson brought a flash of class to the first half, with a 25 metre free kick guided to the right of the Chilean wall in the 32nd minute.

But six minutes into the second half Chile equalised with a move straight through the middle of the field catching the defence napping.

“We were far too passive in defence,” admitted Lars Lagerbäck after the game.

“We let them play their short passing game for too long. Our work rate was good but no player really stood out. Zlatan and Henrik had difficult balls to deal with.”

Sweden play Trinidad and Tobago next Saturday at 6pm. The game will be shown on SVT.

FOOTBALL

Swedish press hails ‘miracle in Berlin’

Sweden's stunning four-goal comeback to salvage a 4-4 draw against Germany in Berlin on Tuesday night prompted commentators to gush over what many considered an improbable footballing "miracle".

Swedish press hails 'miracle in Berlin'

After an hour of football, Sweden found themselves nursing a four-goal deficit and many fans wondered how bad the night would end.

But a beautiful goal off a header by captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 62nd minute sparked an unprecedented comeback for the Swedes, capped by Rasmus Elm’s game-tying goal in extra time, allowing the squad to leave the pitch with an unexpected draw against a team ranked second in the world.

“I’ve never watched a national team that was so totally outplayed then comeback and salvage a point,” crowed Expressen columnist Marcus Birro.

“A miracle. A total Miracle. With a capital M.”

Birro argued that Sweden’s footballers deserved “the Nobel Prize in everything”, before reflecting on whether Tuesday’s performance might prompt largely secular Swedes to reexamine their religious beliefs.

“According to several studies, Swedes don’t believe in God. How is that possible? Can anyone who saw the miracle in Berlin seriously claim that God doesn’t exist?” he asked

Johan Esk, sports columnist at broadsheet Dagens Nyheter (DN), spared no hyperbole in claiming the 4-4 draw was “Sweden’s biggest upset in footballing history”.

“Sweden created a bomb that will be heard throughout the footballing world,” he continued.

“Sweden went from being outplayed, outclassed, laughable bystanders to shocking heroes.”

According to Esk, Sweden “taught Germany and the entire footballing world that it doesn’t matter what the score is or what name is on the back of the opponents’ shirts”.

“Those who give up never have a chance. Those who never give up always have a chance to succeed. No matter how awful things look,” he wrote.

A jubilant Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, captured on film in the stands pumping his fists in a fit of football euphoria while a dejected German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked on, also praised the performance of Sweden’s national side.

“It was totally improbable,” he told the TT news agency following the match.

“I don’t know if Germany has ever lost a four goal lead before in one half at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.”

Meanwhile, Erik Niva, football columnist with tabloid Aftonbladet took aim at German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s collapse, which saw the normally solid performer let in four goals in thirty minutes.

“On a normal day at work, Manuel Neuer exudes self-confidence. Now he couldn’t catch a beachball,” wrote Niva.

He hailed Sweden’s performance as “one of the most improbably I’ve experienced in my life with Swedish football”.

The press in Germany also lambasted their national team’s performance, with Der Spiegel kicking off the criticism with the headline “60 minutes of heaven, 30 minutes of hell.”

READ MORE PRESS REACTION FROM GERMANY ON WWW.THELOCAL.DE

Columnist Mats Olsson from Expressen proclaimed the away draw against Germany was in a class by itself when it came to sporting “miracles”.

“For 45 minutes the Swedish national team looked like hedgehogs that had been paralyzed by a car’s headlights,” he said.

“I’ve never seen a sicker, more wild and wonderful match.”

The Local/dl

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