Football: Swedes see no need to change
"Our game plan will be based around zonal defence and compressing the space," said their coach, Tommy Soderberg, after his squad had tasted the atmosphere and tested the turf at Wembley yesterday. "So no man-marking of Beckham, because England have a lot of other good players."
Soderberg's assistant, Lars Lagerback, who tends to do most of his talking for him, believes that England's recent change of manager will make Sweden's task more difficult. "Of course they are not a totally new team, but you can see Kevin Keegan has already changed one or two things. They play 4-4-2 a bit more like the way we want to play. They're more direct than under Hoddle and put more crosses into the box. Our strength is our mentality. We don't have a huge amount of money in Swedish football and what you see is a group of players who take pride in playing for their country, not in the amount of money they can make."
The Bologna striker Kennet Andersson echoed that theme - "it's teamwork, we play for each other" - but was a little less impressed than some of his colleagues with Manchester United's achievements. "You have Manchester United winning the Champions' League, but Italian teams won the other European cups," he said.
Leicester City's Pontus Kaamark is likely to play at left-back and will, therefore, see plenty of Beckham, of whom he said: "He's one of the best in the world today and he's getting better and better. That's the most amazing thing about him. It must raise the ambition of England's team when a player like him is performing so well and is obviously now at the top of his game. You have to be thinking not only of qualifying for the European Championship but going on to mount a serious challenge and possibly winning it. England have so many players bursting with confidence, they're strong enough to be one of the top teams."
From a member of the team now five points ahead of England, this seemed to be taking Nordic modesty a little far. Arsenal's Fredrik Ljungberg, like Kaamark, has seen most members of the England squad at close quarters in the Premiership this season and also believes they will provide a much sterner challenge than in Stockholm last September. "Often when you go 1-0 down against top quality international sides, they will close the door. We were surprised how quickly we were able to hit back, although both our goals were a bit lucky. Once we'd taken the lead, we played just as we wanted."
"England will be more focussed now because they won't have any distractions off the pitch. When you are preoccupied by things that have little to do with football, it's impossible to get the right result. There were a lot of negative things going on before the game in Stockholm."
The generally relaxed demeanour of the squad reflects not just natural Scandinavian calmness but also an awareness of how well placed they are in the group, and of their fine record down the years against England. The captain and central defender Patrik Andersson said of that sequence of results: "Maybe it's because we know all about England's style of play - very physical, with plenty of long balls. Maybe it's easier to read the game against them. But they still have individuals who can change a game, like Beckham. We'd be happy with a draw."
Happy? Restricting England to one point by five o'clock this evening would have most countries turning somersaults.
Latest in Sport
Jose Mourinho: 'The dogs bark and the caravan goes by,' Chelsea manager gives cryptic assessment after Blues win title
Floyd Mayweather next opponent: Mayweather more likely to pick a former foe than a fresh contender like Amir Khan in Las Vegas lottery
Manchester United transfer news: Adnan Januzaj to be offered in deal for Memphis Depay
Arsenal transfer news: Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini set for showdown summer talks over future
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger reveals: 'We are not close to signing anybody. We need to lose some players'
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...
£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...
£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...