Old boys hold key in Sweden opener
AFP · 9 Jun 2006, 12:41
Published: 09 Jun 2006 12:41 GMT+02:00
The Swedes, tipped to qualify alongside England from Group B, will be buoyed by the evergreen Henrik Larsson who proved that he's lost none of his magic with his supersub appearance for Barcelona in last month's Champions League win.
Meanwhile, Dwight Yorke, a member of Manchester United's 1999 treble-winning team is determined to make the most of the Caribbean side's first appearance at the finals.
Swedish hopes meanwhile were hit a late blow when first choice goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson was ruled out of the game after being flattened by a shot in the face from team-mate Kim Källström.
Coach Lars Lagerbäck will have to choose between Viborg's John Alvbåge and Fredrikstad's Egyptian-born Rami Shabaan.
Twelve years have passed since a dreadlocked Larsson first came to prominence at USA 94, where Sweden surprised everyone by finishing third.
But though the dreadlocks have long since been lopped off, Larsson says he is every bit the player he was a decade ago, and is revelling in his decision to reverse his international retirement in 2004.
"I feel as fit now as I did ten years ago. The older I get the stronger I get," said Larsson, the 2001 Golden Boot winner who has 34 international goals.
"The game against Trinidad & Tobago is very important for us and we must go out and do our very best. The goal must of course be that in the long run we can go all the way to the final. If you don't think that then you don't have anything to play for in a tournament like this.
"We are more or the less same players in the squad compared with four years ago which means more experience which is good for everyone in the squad."
Trinidad and Tobago, better known as the home of cricket superstar Brian Lara than for its footballers, start the tournament as 1,000/1 outsiders and are seen as the whipping boys of the group which is made up by Paraguay.
They rely on a ragtag army of players drawn from leagues far and wide. Of their 23 players, only four ply their trade in the Caribbean so wily old coach Leo Beenhakker has pulled together men whose clubs are in England, Scotland, Wales and the United States.
But it is veteran attacker Yorke, once of Manchester United and now of Sydney in Australia, who will carry his country's hopes into their debut appearance secured by a tough qualifying campaign, topped off by a play-off win against Bahrain.
"We are going to compete. We have a fifty-fifty chance like everybody else," said Yorke of his team's chances.
"We have been in situations where we were perhaps the better team and didn't get the results. Its 11 versus 11 and we are in Germany with that mentality."