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WORLDCUP

Ljungberg: Swedish fans were the best ever

Swedish star Freddie Ljungberg doesn't often score with his head - but Thursday's effort in the dying moments of his country's 1-0 victory over Paraguay in Group B will be worth a place in his scrapbook.

A goalless draw was on the cards, leaving Swedish qualification hopes hanging by a thread after they drew a blank against Trinidad and Tobago when Ljungberg nodded in from close range to send an estimated 45,000 compatriots berserk in the Olympic Stadium.

“I think we played quite well and much better than against Trinidad and Tobago. we created a lot of chances and in the end we scored,” Ljungberg said after being named man of the match.

Sweden now have four points and will take their place in the last 16 even if they lose to England in their final group game – unless Trinidad and Tobago can shock Paraguay, whereupon it would go down to goal difference or even goals scored.

To avoid that scenario a draw will do against an England side coached by compatriot Sven-Göran Eriksson’s minimalist 100-percenters.

But a win would give the Swedes the group success and a theoretically weaker rival in the next round, either hosts Germany or Ecuador.

“It’s going to be a massive game – I think both teams want to win the group,” said Ljungberg, who had made the headlines for the wrong reasons earlier this week after a training session bust-up with captain Olof Mellberg – the second successive World Cup finals it had happened.

“It’s going to be difficult.”

On his rare header, Arsenal star Ljungberg told Sweden’s TV4 television, asked when he last headed a goal: “About a year ago, so it felt good”.

“My first goal in the national team was a header but I can’t recall any more – I might be a man with a bad memory!”

On the England match, he added: “It will be an interesting game. We know one point is enough but at the same time you want to win.

“We haven’t advanced from the group stage yet,” said Lagerbäck, who said watching from the sidelines had been tough as the clock ticked down.

“It’s always frustrating sitting on the bench creating goalscoring chances and you can’t put them in the net. But (Sweden) not creating goalscoring chances is even worse.”

Swedish coach Lars Lagerbäck played down the extent of a leg injury to playmaker Zlatan Ibrahomovic, substituted at half time after an ineffectual display by the Juventus star’s standards.

“Zlatan had an injury in his leg and we didn’t want to risk anything because the medical staff said if he carried on he might not be able to come back during the World Cup so we decided to take him off.”

With some 45,000 Swedes cheering the team on at Berlin’s Olympia Stadium, Ljungberg said the match was the greatest he had ever experienced.

“Absolutely the best. The fans are never this crazy when we play at home. All the Swedes were screaming like mad,” he said.

Substitute Marcus Allbäck praised the sea of yellow and blue-clad fans in the stadium and said he was stunned at the explosive reaction to the goal.

“It was a totally amazing goal. It must be record odds against that likelihood. When I saw it go in and then the whole stadium exploded in cheers, well, I can’t find the words to describe it,” Allbäck told TV4.

“All the Swedes were screaming like mad,” Ljungberg concurred.

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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