SHARE
COPY LINK

WORLDCUP

Late Ljungberg header saves Sweden

It was very, very close to being a miserable conclusion to a frustrating evening for Sweden as they toiled for 89 minutes against an even more impotent Paraguay.

But a last-ditch cross from Johan Elmander, a delicate nod back across goal from Marcus Allbäck and a pinpoint header by Ljungberg sent 40,000 Swedes in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium into raptures.

Sweden now face compatriot Sven-Göran Eriksson’s England on Tuesday as they bid to win Group B with either hosts Germany or Ecuador waiting in the next round.

England are certain of their place while the Swedes can still mathematically be caught by Trinidad and Tobago.

Despite having the lion’s share of the possession the Swedes were unable to force an early breakthrough despite the probings of Juventus playmaker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose failure to find his usual lustre saw him replaced at the break by Marcus Allback.

Roberto Acuna welcomed the Copenhagen striker by felling him to pick up a booking as the Paraguayans offered a muscular approach.

But just when it looked as if a goalless draw that would have suited neither side was set to be the end product Ljungberg nodded home after Allbäck headed across goal to find the midfielder lurking on the edge of the six-yard box.

The goal sparked bedlam on the Swedish bench and among some 40,000 Swedish fans inside the Olympic Stadium.

With England having made it into the last 16 by virtue of a laboured 2-0 win against minnows Trinidad and Tobago, the Swedes, who could only draw against the Caribbean side in their opener, were seeking to move onto four points.

And they just made it.

Sweden were hoping their forward line of Henrik Larsson, Ibrahimovic and Ljungberg would see them home and dry but they were foundering on a rocklike back four relentlessly held together by Paraguayan skipper Carlos Gamarra, whose own goal handed England their narrow win in Frankfurt.

Sweden’s early best chance fell to Kim Källström, who forced Aldo Bobadilla to make a two-handed stop on nine minutes in goal with a piledriver.

Christian Wilhelmsson then went close after good work by Ljungberg.

The Paraguayans, industrious but at times over physical, had few good chances and Nelson Valdez wasted one in firing well over from a Santa Cruz knockdown midway through the opening period.

Sweden made two changes from the side which could not break down Trinidad and Tobago with Andreas Isaksson in goal in place of Rami Shaaban and Anders Svensson stepping down for Kim Källström in midfield.

The Swedish midfielder produced the first quality effort of the encounter, a meaty 25-metre drive which forced a two-handed save from Bobadilla.

Valdez shot into the side netting and a speculative Carlos Bonet effort flew too high as the Paraguayans clearly decided they had to up the pace after the break and Acuna then sent a low effort too close to Isaksson.

On the hour mark Sweden came within centimetres of scoring when Allbäck tried to lob Bobadilla only for Caniza to get back and hack clear, the defender ending up in the back of the net.

Paraguay reacted as Dante Lopez came on for the ineffective Roque Santa Cruz.

Larsson went close with a header over as the Swedes enjoyed another purple patch and then the veteran did his best to gift Allback another chance but Bobadilla clutched the striker’s acrobatic flick.

“I think we played pretty well, better than against Trinidad and Tobago. We had a little more patience. Our passing game was faster and simpler,” said a beaming Ljungberg after the game.

“And the crowd was unbelievable, screaming like mad. It was a fantastic experience.”

Sweden will play England next Tuesday and a draw will ensure that Lars Lagerbäck’s team progress to the next stage.

The Local/AFP

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

Follow The Local on Twitter

SHOW COMMENTS