Sweden gears up for first World Cup match amid spying claims

Sweden gears up for first World Cup match amid spying claims
Swedish coach Janne Andersson. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall / TT
Sweden gears up for its first World Cup match on Monday, against South Korea, with claims of spying from both sides dominating the build-up.

Swedish coach Janne Andersson was forced to apologize on Sunday after it was claimed one of his scouts had been caught spying on Monday's opponents at a closed training session in Austria.

The row centres on Swedish scout Lasse Jacobsson who reportedly covertly watching the Koreans prepare for the World Cup. Jacobsson had apparently rented a house in the town of Leogang, near Salzburg to 'spy' on Sweden's first opponents.

“He heard about a practice session, he didn't understand that it was a closed session, he didn't understand and he watched from a distance,” said Andersson, attempting to downplay the incident.

“It's very important we show respect to all our opponents in all circumstances… if someone could interpret it in another way we regret it.” He added: “It's been made a mountain out of a molehill.”

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Asked about claims that Sweden had spied on his team, South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong was calm, saying: “I don't think that's bad”, adding that all teams needed to know about their opponents. There have been counter-claims that the Koreans also spied on the Swedes in the run-up to Russia.

However, Shin Tae-yong also revealed he had taken precautions during training, deliberately making his team wear different numbered shirts in recent friendlies to confuse World Cup opponents who cannot tell his players apart.

He said all but star player Son Heung-min and captain Ki Sung-yueng were given different shirts in games against Bolivia and Senegal in Austria earlier this month to outwit anyone checking up on his team.

“All of the others played in numbers a little bit confusing, that's why we switched the numbers,” Shin Tae-yong told reporters. “It's very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians, that's why we did that.”

The claims reflect the growing realization for both teams that Monday's match is vital as they have been drawn against world champions Germany and Mexico in a tough-looking group.

Andersson also said he had a full squad of players to choose from and pretty much knew which team he would pick, but refused to reveal more details.

Meanwhile, captain Andreas Granqvist said at Sunday's press conference that the players could not wait to start the match.

“I am really looking forward to this World Cup, we are raring to go, all of us,” he said. “We are looking forward to the match… we have had excellent preparations.”

Granqvist revealed the teams have been helped by sports counsellors in the run-up to the tournament.”We are better prepared now than for previous tournaments,” he said.

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