Monday, November 29, 2010

Sweden started their campaign modestly as well – a 0-0 tie in the opening match against Bulgaria. My impression was that Sweden overestimated Bulgaria and played with unnecessary caution. Predictions about the ‘iron group’ were becoming true… and although Sweden looked better team than both Bulgaria and Uruguay, this tie may cost them dearly.
The second match was again mighty Holland and ended with surprising result: 0-0. Some observers, especially in Bulgaria, where always outside factors are blamed for Bulgarian failures, saw some kind of North-Western conspiracy – the Dutch giving a generous point to their ‘Capitalist brothers’.
A photo supporting conspiracy theory: Krol helping Edstrom to get off the ground, both smiling to each other.
There was no conspiracy, for suspecting minds omitted few important details: if Dutch football was familiar to anybody, it was to Sweden – Holland was traditional professional destination for Swedish footballers. Presently, Nordqvist and Edstrom played for PSV Eindhoven, rapidly becoming a more exciting and a stronger club than Ajax and Feyenoord. They knew the Dutch stars inside and out, for the famed Dutch were either teammates or opponents week after week. There was also pride – it was sweet to rub the noses of the often obnoxious Dutch. There was tradition too – Holland struggled against Scandinavian teams. And finally, Sweden, whether winning or losing, always played with great motivation, giving their best. The match was not some lame performance, but a fight, often going beyond ‘good manners’.
Mighty Cruiff was hardly respected by the Swedes: here Bo Larsson fouls him, with Nordqvist ready to give him a kick as well. Some friendship and backroom agreement…
Sweden got an unexpected point, but it was nothing yet. Before their third match they had 2 points. Bulgaria also had 2 points and Uruguay – one. It was unlikely that Bulgaria will get even one point against Holland, but football is unpredictable, so playing for a tie against Uruguay would not do. Besides, Uruguay still had a chance to go to the second round – it was to be a cruel match.
It was not – Sweden was flying. Uruguay was immediately outplayed and Sweden won 3-0. They really played good, every next game better than the previous. It was pleasure to watch them. Nobody considered them potential candidates for the title, but they were admired. One of the most attractive teams so far. They finished second in Group 3 and went to the next stage deservingly. The ‘sluggish’ Swedish defence did not allow a single goal in the round robin stage. The only other team preserving clean sheet was Brazil.