Jonson ends Scandinavian saga with dramatic leveller

Denmark 2 Sweden 2
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The Independent Football

As cold, wet Scandinavian weather engulfed northern Portugal, Denmark and Sweden last night contrived the scoreline that Italy knew would send them home.

As cold, wet Scandinavian weather engulfed northern Portugal, Denmark and Sweden last night contrived the scoreline that Italy knew would send them home.

Yet this draw was no fix or stitch-up, even though the Danish goalkeeper, Thomas Sorensen, will be pilloried by Italian conspiracy theorists for parrying Christian Wilhelmsson's cross for Mattias Jonson to volley the fourth goal of an enthralling match with 90 seconds remaining.

Sweden and Denmark therefore advanced to the last eight on the basis of having scored more goals in the three matches between themselves and Italy. The Swedes' second equaliser to two goals by Jon Dahl Tomasson ­ who plies his trade, ironically, as a fringe player with Milan ­ means that they will meet the runners-up of Group D in the quarter-finals.

Denmark, as the side finishing second in Group C, must take on the formidable Czech Republic, which is doubtless why Sorensen cut a disappointed figure before joining his compatriots in their the celebrations.

Morten Olsen, the Denmark coach, reacted tersely when he was asked about the "strange result". "It's ridiculous to suggest that we wanted to draw. Everyone who watched the game saw two teams that wanted to win it."

His irritation appeared genuine. Had they held on at 2-1, the Danes would have played Germany, the Netherlands or possibly Latvia in Faro, where they are based. Instead, they will have to return to Porto to face a team Olsen described as "one of the favourites".

Lars Lagerback, Sweden's co-manager, also defended the game's integrity. "If [Giovanni] Trapattoni watches this match on video, he will know it was a tough fight from both teams. Italy have only themselves to blame ­ if they had beaten either of us, they would have gone through."

The Danish flag which bore the legend "2-2: Bye, Italy" encapsulated the most cynical fears of the Azzurri and their followers. Uefa had numerous permutations to separate the three sides if they all finished level on points and on goal difference in the matches between them, with the possibility that it might even come down to who had the nicest strip or the best hair.

Sweden were the most comfortably placed going into the evening ­ any draw suited them ­ whereas the arithmetic was more difficult for Denmark. Their early ascendancy reaped its reward in the 28th minute. A throw-in by the outstanding Thomas Gravesen was flicked by Ebbe Sand into the path of Tomasson, who chested the ball down and lashed it beyond Andreas Isaksson. Suddenly, Sweden sensed they might be ones to be squeezed out.

Niclas Jensen, who departed with a serious ankle injury, gave way to Kasper Bogelund after the interval. It was the substitute's misfortune that Sweden's first equaliser stemmed from his patch. With just 25 seconds played, he and his co-defenders seemed to lose concentration.

Henrik Larsson pursued the ball and fell under Sorensen's dive, rising to power his penalty down the middle as the Aston Villa goalkeeper dived to his left. Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic started to cause problems with their movement and ability to improvise, a trait which has helped break down the stereotype of the solid but essentially unexciting Scandinavian footballer.

Tomasson has played his part in changing such perceptions, and midway through the second half he restored Denmark's lead. Sweden did not clear a corner adequately, and when Gravesen's shot was deflected into his path eight yards from goal, the former Newcastle player spun and sidefooted past Isaksson.

Four minutes later, after Gravesen's driving run caused havoc, Isaksson beat out Sand's drive to keep alive a contest which ­ Italy should be informed ­ pulsated like a freshly rung bell right up to Jonson's moment of glory