Blood, sweat, tears... but why do we never beat Sweden?

It is 43 years and 12 matches since England won against the Scandinavians. Glenn Moore charts the history of a hoodoo dating back to days of Sir Alf

After defeating the world champions, England should surely sweep Sweden aside with ease at Wembley tomorrow night? History suggests not. Who are England's most difficult opponents? The country the Three Lions simply cannot get their teeth into? Argentina? Germany? Both have been beaten twice in a decade. France? Italy? Both were beaten in 1997, 12 months prior to France winning the World Cup. The Dutch? The Portuguese? Both thrashed at Wembley in the mid-1990s. It must be Brazil? No. It's only a mere 10 matches and 27 years since John Barnes weaved his way through the selecao in Rio de Janeiro.

Romania, unbeaten since Geoff Hurst scored the only goal at Mexico 1970, are surprisingly tough opponents, but the team England simply cannot beat are Sweden. No opponent has been as obstinate. Since the then World Cup holders defeated Sweden 3-1 at Wembley in 1968, England have played the Scandinavians 12 times without winning once. Seven of these matches have been in competition. Even when England hired a Swede as manager, England could not elicit a win, Sven Goran Eriksson being unable to defeat his compatriots. Nevertheless, many bookies still price England at 4-6 to win tomorrow.

That is in some ways understandable. Darren Anderton, who scored a late equaliser in England's 3-3 draw against Sweden in Leeds in 1995, said: "I always think England will beat Sweden. When you look on paper I always fancy us, but they are a very dogged team." England goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence, also speaking to FATV, said: "They are [historically] a side that are built not to be beaten."

Indeed, of those 12 matches, eight have been drawn, four of them goalless. England have failed to score six times and only twice scored more than once.

Add to that, said Anderton, "they almost treat it like a cup final when they play us." That much, said Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson after the 2006 match, is true. He said: "I think we are extra motivated when we play against England because in Sweden we grew up with English football and we watch the Premier League. It has always inspired us and we have many players who have played in the Premier League." Or, he could have added, are playing to gain a move to England.

The other factor is that Sweden regularly produce players of real quality, especially in goal (Ronnie Hellstrom, Jan Moller, Thomas Ravelli), centre-half (Bjorn Nordqvist, Glenn Hysen, Patrik Andersson) and at centre-forward where Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the latest of a line that dates back to the Gre-No-Li (Gunnar Gren, Gunner Nordahl, and Niels Liedholm).

Nevertheless, since 1968, the Scots have beaten Sweden five times, Northern Ireland have beaten them three times, and Republic of Ireland have beaten them twice.

"I tried many times, we never beat them," said Eriksson recently. "It is an amazing record, but sooner or later it will end."

The competitive meetings

1988 WC qualifier England 0-0 Sweden, Wembley

England were jeered off after a frustrating match. Chris Waddle hit the post late on, but Peter Shilton needed to make some sharp saves.

1989 WC qualifier Sweden 0-0 England, Stockholm

Best remembered for the sight of Terry Butcher, his bandaged head and shirt soaked in blood. In a classic piece of hyperbole, the England manager, Bobby Robson, declared people had won the Victoria Cross for less. Butcher's son later served in Afghanistan.

1992 EC finals Sweden 2-1 England, Stockholm

Tomas Brolin's beautifully taken winning goal was overshadowed by the sight of Gary Lineker being substituted with 26 minutes remaining. Lineker was left stranded on 48 goals, one short of Bobby Charlton's record. The Sun's response: "Swedes 2, Turnips 1" with manager Graham Taylor lampooned.

1998 EC qualifier Sweden 2-1 England, Stockholm

England, in their first match since the epic World Cup exit to Argentina, scored early through Alan Shearer but conceded to Newcastle United's Andreas Andersson and Celtic's Johan Mjallby. This was the beginning of the end for Glenn Hoddle. One media member rubbed his hands with glee when Sweden took the lead and said, 'that's more like it'.

1999 EC qualifier England 0-0 Sweden, Wembley

Paul Scholes was dismissed for a horrible tackle on Hakan Mild, Martin Keown and David Beckham limped off injured, and a disjointed England rarely looked like winning.

2002 WC finals England 1-1 Sweden, Saitama

Sol Campbell headed England into a first-half lead from a corner taken by David Beckham, back after a broken metatarsal. Everton's Niclas Alexandersson levelled.

2006 WC finals England 2-2 Sweden, Cologne

England seemed destined to end the hex when Steven Gerrard headed in with five minutes left. However, Henrik Larsson levelled in the final minute. Joe Cole (a superb volley) and Marcus Allback had scored earlier. Both went into the knockout stages but not Michael Owen, who suffered a serious knee injury.

The friendlies

1979 Sweden 0-0 England, Stockholm

Captain Emlyn Hughes hit the post in a quiet match.

1986 Sweden 1-0 England, Stockholm

England played poorly in their first match after the "Hand of God" World Cup exit.

1995 England 3-3 Sweden, Leeds

Darren Anderton, with a spectacular late volley, rescued England after errors by Tim Flowers gave Sweden the advantage.

2001 England 1-1 Sweden, Manchester

David Beckham scored from the spot in the first of four unsuccessful attempts by Sven Goran Eriksson to beat his home nation.

2004 Sweden 1-0 England, Gothenburg

Eriksson gave Celtic's Alan Thompson and Spurs' Anthony Gardner their sole caps. A young Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the only goal.

...And the last victory

1968: England 3-1 Sweden, Wembley

Alf Ramsey gave Alex Stepney and Colin Bell their debuts in this friendly but it was World Cup winners Martin Peters, Bobby Charlton and Roger Hunt who secured a comfortable victory, Sweden's goal coming from the last kick of the match.

Suggested Topics
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?