Euro 2012 Short Takes: Swedes dig for excuses

 

Sweden refuse to go quietly. So stung were they by that rare defeat to the English that they blamed bad luck.

The Swedes were frustrated by England's defensive approach and long-ball tactics, with midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who has spent his career with Arsenal, Birmingham City and Sunderland, claiming that Theo Walcott's deflected equaliser was a complete fluke. "I threw myself to block the shot, it touched the slightest millimetre of my shin pad but it was enough to cause problems and it went in," he said. "That happens once in a thousand efforts. There's not a lot more to say." Certainly not "well done" to his old team-mate.

103

The number of caps Franz Beckenbauer won for West Germany, which is a tally Lucas Podolski is hoping to match before the end of the tournament in Poland and Ukraine. Podolski will be awarded his 100th cap against Denmark tonight and must help guide Germany to the final to match the great Beckenbauer. "The goal this summer is not the 100, but the 103 and I am optimistic that it will happen," Podolski said.

Ukraine come of age

Former Tottenham striker Sergei Rebrov has been delighted to see his old friend Andrey Shevchenko strike a blow for the over thirties. Shevchenko, 35, scored twice against Sweden and went close in Friday's defeat by France. Next up are England. "People in Ukraine think if you are over 30 you should stop playing," said Rebrov. "They have been saying it about Andriy for the past few years but he has proven otherwise."

A keepsake for Given

Shay Given felt hard done-by when he lost his Manchester City place to Joe Hart and the competition between the two is still fierce. Given, for all his faults in this tournament, has made the most saves of any goalkeeper, with 22 to his name. Just two behind the Irishman is his old nemesis Hart. Each keeper has his merits but these are worrying statistics for both Irish and English defences.

Capello has it figured

The outrage over the Capello Index before the 2010 World Cup is looking more and more like a storm in a teacup. The controversial ranking system former manager Fabio Capello lent his name to two years ago is up and running at the European Championship. Two of the current top-three ranked players in Group D are Danny Welbeck and Joleon Lescott. Maybe it should have been used in South Africa after all.

Paranoia stalking Italians

With a decisive match against Spain tomorrow, Croatia are being battered with questions about Italy. Croatia and Spain can advance to the quarter-finals if they draw 2-2 (or greater) in Gdansk. Croatia's Everton striker Nikica Jelavic has tried to ease Italian nerves by saying: "You must play for all three points." He added that he and his team-mates "expect a good result for us". Italians are worried, though, and not about the team's opponents Ireland. Italy went out of Euro 2004 when Sweden and Denmark drew 2-2 in their final group game, qualifying on goals scored in head-to-head matches. Gazzetta dello Sport is predicting a "nightmare".

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