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21 Jun 2006 09:15
England finally got a result against Sweden it can live with.
No, not a win—that has been too much to ask for. A 2-2 draw on Tuesday, however, was enough for the English to win Group B at the World Cup.
Henrik Larsson tied it off a throw-in, getting the slightest touch to deflect the ball into the net in the 90th minute.
England hasn’t beaten the Swedes since 1968—seven years before David Beckham was born—a streak of frustration that is now at 12 games.
But the draw means Sweden has to face three-time champion and World Cup host Germany in Munich in the second round on Saturday.
“We won the group and that’s what counts,” England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said.
Joe Cole scored in the 34th minute, and then set up Steven Gerrard’s go-ahead goal in the 85th for England.
Marcus Allback equalised at 1-1 for the Swedes on a header in the 51st minute.
England plays Ecuador on Sunday in Stuttgart. But it might have to do it without striker Michael Owen, who left in the fourth minute with a nasty-looking injury to his right knee.
“It does not look good,” Eriksson said.
Asked if Owen might miss the rest of the tournament, Eriksson said, “Maybe, we don’t know yet.”
England looked as if it might finally end its misery against Sweden thanks to Cole. He scored on a brilliant 30m volley, then got the ball to Gerrard for the go-ahead score.
But Sweden, which pressured England throughout the second half, came through in the dying moments.
Larsson barely brushed the throw-in from Tobias Linderoth, but it was enough to get by Sol Campbell and England goalkeeper Paul Robinson. It set off a raucous celebration by the Sweden fans and quieted the English, who had been singing “God Save the Queen” only a few minutes earlier.
“What’s clear is we have to defend better in the match against Ecuador,” Eriksson said.
Sweden has won four and drawn eight in the streak against England, with four of the matches coming while Eriksson—a Swede—has coached England.
England got a spark from Wayne Rooney, making his first start since breaking a bone in his foot April 29. But it was Cole who made things happen. He came frustratingly close a couple of times in the first half before breaking through in the 34th.
Niclas Alexandersson cleared the ball with a header, and it dropped in front of Cole. It bounced, Cole trapped it with his chest, then took a powerful swing with his right foot.
The ball sailed straight for the goal and Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson leaped desperately to deflect it. But he could only brush the ball with his fingertips, and it caromed off the post into the back of the net.
After Allback made it 1-1, it was Cole once again providing for England. He sent a beautiful cross from the edge of the box to Gerrard, who’d come on in the 69th minute. Gerrard leaped and knocked the ball into the goal, just past Isaksson.
Though England came in with an eight-game unbeaten, it hadn’t played its best in Germany. But with Rooney back in the starting lineup, England controlled the tempo from kickoff on Tuesday night.
Even when Owen went out with a knee injury just four minutes into the game—it tied the quickest substition in a World Cup match—England played quickly and aggressively.
Cole, Rooney and Frank Lampard all came close to scoring.
Sweden’s best chance was off a corner kick in the 19th by Tobias Linderoth. The ball went straight to Teddy Lucic, who had a clear shot to the goal, but it banged off of Lampard. Lucic held up his hands as if to say, “Just inches,” then shook his head in frustration.
But the teams looked very different after halftime—a good thing for Sweden, not so good for England.
Six minutes into the half, Allback outleaped Beckham for Linderoth’s corner, knocking the ball back toward the goal and over Robinson to tie it.
Sweden missed a chance to go ahead four minutes later. Larsson’s header deflected off an England defender, and it looked as if it would go into the net. But Robinson got a shoulder on it, and it bounced off the crossbar. - Sapa-AP
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