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WORLDCUP

Ragged Sweden outclassed by Germany

Sweden's World Cup dream is over. The yellow-and-blues crashed out of the World Cup in Munich on Saturday after two goals and a sending off in the first half against hosts Germany proved too great a hurdle to overcome.

Germany got off to the perfect start with Lukas Podolski scoring twice in the first 12 minutes – making it three goals in his last two outings – as Sweden’s defence fell apart.

Defender Teddy Lucic was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 34th minute giving Sweden a mountain to climb.

Henrik Larsson had the best chance to get his team back in the match but missed a penalty at the beginning of the second half, blazing over.

It was a fourth straight World Cup win for Germany who are now just two games away from matching manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s target of reaching the final in Berlin on July 9th.

Germany will face the winner of the Argentina v Mexico match in next Friday’s quarter-final in Berlin.

For Sweden it was more second-round disappointment – they were knocked out of the 2002 World Cup by Senegal at the same stage.

Sweden manager Lars Lagerbäck started with three strikers, including the returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the bold move backfired as Germany struck early.

With just four minutes gone Miroslav Klose surged through on goal. Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson stopped him in his tracks but the ball fell kindly to Podolski and his shot went in off the hapless Lucic.

It was Podolski’s second goal in a row and the third was not long in coming.

In the 12th minute Podolski, who will play on the same turf for Bayern Munich next season, accepted a pass from Klose and curled a left-footed shot in for 2-0.

German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had hardly made a save in his first three matches but was called into action to stop a smart turn and shot by Ibrahimovic.

Eight minutes into the second half Sweden were then handed a lifeline when Larsson was felled by Christoph Metzelder in the penalty area.

But Larsson, winning his 93rd cap, hammered his spot-kick over the crossbar to the dismay of the Sweden fans.

Germany captain Michael Ballack then saw a fantastic drive tipped onto the post.

The new Chelsea man was shooting at will and could have had a hat-trick but he was left still searching for his first goal at these finals.

Sweden created chances but with their numerical disadvantage they never looked like overturning a buoyant Germany.

The home fans left the turnstiles in high spirits as their team continue to ride the World Cup wave.

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

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