Monday, June 10, 2013

Sweden started well – against Brazil, the Swedes scored first and in fairly equal match had a few more chances to score. Once the bar denied them a second goal. Brazil equalized in the last minute of the first half and had few opportunities in the second, but Hellstrom was superb.
Bearded viking Sjoberg scoring for Sweden in the 38th minute.

The drama happened in the last minute – Brazil had a corner kick after which Zico scored with a header.
It was amusing – Sweden was losing by goals scored in the last minute of both halves. But this was the day of changing luck: the referee disallowed the Brazilian goal – he ended the match just before Zico reached the ball. 'Half a second earlier' wrote journalists, emphasizing the drama, although how the referee measured half a second is a mystery. Decisions like that are always controversial and heatedly debated. The Brazilians chased the referee and protested the decision, but naturally the result stayed 1-1. Lucky Swedes, but the match was equal, so a tie was pretty much fair. Coach Ericson said his team played well. The match was important in one more aspect: Nordqvist played his 109th match for Sweden, the most capped player in the world. Bobby Moore was not second with his 108 caps.

And well they played in the second match against Austria, but luck was not on their side. Again Sweden allowed a goal near the end of the first half – Krankl scored from a penalty for a foul committed by Nordqvist. Again fairly equal match, but Austria was more aggressive and impressive, especially in attack. Sweden apparently suffered in that line – and for a second match Ralf Edstrom came in the second half, but even with him Sweden was unable to score and lost 0-1.
Sweden left few pictorial evidence of her participation in the World Cup – a post stamp from Paraguay shows the match with Austria. Krankl slips away from Swedish defenders. The whole difference, it seems.

Sweden still had a chance to advance – a victory over Spain was a must, but also Austria – Sweden had to end either with Brazilian defeat, or at least tied. This time Edstrom was a starter – a rather desperate attempt of fixing somewhat the attacking line. Scoring was a problem, and Edstrom, although not in his best form, had experience, hopefully helpful. It was not – the match against Spain was similar to the previous ones. Sweden played equal match, this time surviving the first half without receiving a late goal, but unable to score either. In the second half Spain managed to score in the 76th minute and Sweden had no answer to that. One more minimal loss.

Sweden finished last in the group – one of their lowest performances ever at the World Cup finals. They managed only a single point. The detected decline presented itself at the finals - the team was quite equal, played with good spirit, did not break down, but there was something missing. Little something... just enough to lose two of three matches, or even all three, if the weird 'half-a-second' denying second Brazilian goal is discounted. Sweden had problems in attack, was unable to score – and a good fight was hardly enough, if opposition managed to score only one goal. As it did, packing Sweden for an early trip back to Europe. Sweden practically left no memories this year, so let put one little bit here: Ronnie Hellstrom went to join the already famous, yet, helpless, mothers of the 'disappeared', marching in protest at Plaza de Mayo. He showed solidarity. Perhaps the Junta was happy to see Sweden out of the country that soon. At home – no tragedy. Ericson remained a coach, the team did its best, given the scarcity of talent at this particular time.