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WORLDCUP

Victory more important than patriotism for Eriksson

Sven-Göran Eriksson has set his sights on victory over Sweden in England's final first phase World Cup match on Tuesday, even if a win sets up a daunting second round tie with Germany.

England manager Eriksson said his team would be told to concentrate on beating Sweden before they started thinking about the last 16.

With six points from their opening two games, England have already qualified for the second round and only need a draw to be sure of winning Group B.

Topping the group however could see them paired with the Germans if the host nation fails to beat Ecuador in their final Group A match earlier Tuesday.

Eriksson insists however that it will not be a factor.

“All I want to do is win the group,” Eriksson said.

“Of course we will try to win but winning the group is the best because it may not be easier but you have more rest days between the matches which is very important. To win the group is always the best no matter what happens in the other group. Two years in Portugal we didn’t do it, four years ago in Japan we didn’t do it. So let’s hope this time we can.”

England will be told the result of Germany’s match with Ecuador but will not watch the game, Eriksson said.

“We will not watch it. We’ll hear the result before we kick off but that’s it,” he added.

Eriksson is expected to rest two of the three England players who have picked up yellow cards in opening wins over Paraguay and Trinidad-Tobago, with striker Peter Crouch and midfielder Steven Gerrard benched.

Owen Hargreaves is tipped to form the central midfield partnership with Frank Lampard in Gerrard’s absence.

“I will rest one or two players because of yellow cards not because they are physically tired,” Eriksson said.

“If I had to win the group to stay in the tournament it would have been different. We are already through so I can do this. But it will be a competitive match tomorrow.”

Eriksson has not beaten Sweden in three attempts since taking over in 2001, part of an English winless streak against the Scandinavians that stretches back to 1968. There is no question of divided loyalties on Eriksson’s part.

“Of course I’m a Swede but I left Sweden in 1982, so it’s really a long, long time,” he said.

“I really don’t think about it because when you are a coach or a manager of a football team you just want to beat any team which is on the other side.”

Eriksson said Sweden’s familiarity with English domestic football through regular television coverage over the years could explain their excellent record against England.

“I was brought up with English football as much as I was brought up with Swedish football,” Eriksson said. “We saw good English football ever since I was very, very young every Saturday afternoon. We loved English football.”

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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