Delays and injuries as Sweden prepares for North Korea match

Sweden's Saturday flight for Tianjin, the venue for the last group match, was delayed 6 hours. This meant that the team missed one training session, but on the other hand, so did the Koreans too, who were booked on the same flight.

There were two Sunday training sessions, but Hanna Ljungberg, Lotta Schelin, Linda Forsberg rested from both while Victoria Svensson, Caroline Seger and Hedvig Lindahl only attended one.

For the Monday training session, the final rehearsal for the final group match, Caroline Seger was given a rest and it also looks like Linda Forsberg will be unable to play on Tuesday.

The Swedish management still has a hopeful view on the North Korea match. Tore Lennertsson, who has been responsible for scouting the Asians, doesn't think a three goal win is unrealistic. "They are less structured than USA. They have a great passing play, but there are moments when they are not quite as good."

Scandinavian training matches

The Scandinavian leagues are all on hold for the World Cup. Some of the clubs have taken the opportunity to play a few friendlies over the borders.

LDB FC Malmö hosted Danish side Skovlunde, letting youth players take the place for the national team players and their injured players. They still won a very convincing 4-1 victory with three Manon Melis goals and one from Dora Stefansdottir.
LDB FC Malmö:
LdB FC Malmö - Skovlunde 4-1

Qbik went to Norway to play Røa and Asker. They defeated Røa (presently number 2 in the Norwegian league) 1-0 with a goal by Anna Nilsson but lost big to Asker (third place) 6-2. Anna Nilsson scored here too and so did American newcomer Lauren MacIver. Coach Janne Jansson was pleased with both MacIver and the other new transfer Michele O'Brien, even if he won't promise them starting positions when the league restarts.
Värmlands Folkblad: Qbik både vann och föll i Norge - nye MacIver målskytt direkt

A new face on women's football ?

LDB FC Malmö signed a SEK 3 million a year contract with their new sponsor Hardford, a company in cosmetics and hair- and skincare products, naming the club after one of Hardford's best known brand names, just before the season started this year. Included in the package was an additional couple of millions to rebrand the club. Match kits, of course, but also shirts and flags and other promotional material, including a new team slogan: "Snyggare fotboll", roughly translated "beautifuller football". The slogan has been somewhat debated - what are they referring to, the players? - but it should be noted that "snyggare" is a very versatile adjective in Swedish. You can use it for a goal, for a save, for a man and for a woman.

Now they are taking the rebranding a step further. Go to their web-site,, and see for yourself. Not much discussed in public about this yet, since they launched it just a few days ago in the midst of the World Cup, but I've seen fans questioning the "stereotyped female" picture of the players. And I do think it would have been more refreshing to see Asta Helgadottir in a hard-hat on a building site than doing work-out exercises.

Fateful loss to USA

Sweden - USA 0 - 2 (0-1)
Sweden: Hedvig Lindahl (Linköping) - Anna Paulson (Umeå), Hanna Marklund (Sunnanå), Stina Segerström (Kif Örebro) [81 Therese Lundin (MalmÖ)], Frida Östberg (Linköping) - Linda Forsberg (Djurgården), Caroline Seger (Linköping), Therese Sjögran (Malmö) [65 Nilla Fischer (Malmö)], Victoria Svensson (Djurgården) - Lotta Schelin (Göteborg), Hanna Ljungberg (Umeå)
Goals: 0-1 Abby Wambach (34 PK), 0-2 Abby Wambach (58)

Sweden started, as expected, with a 4-4-2 line-up, but coach Dennerby surprised by picking young almost-debutant Linda Forsberg for the fourth midfield position. And it worked pretty well in the beginning. The team managed to hold the ball on the American half of the field for more than a few passes, creating five corner-shots already in the first few minutes. But USA caught up already in the middle of the first half and after about half an hour Hedvig Lindahl misjudged a ball and put Stina Segerström in a position where she had to risk fouling Lori Chalupny inside the penalty area. The referee called the foul and Abby Wambach scored on the following penalty kick. Sweden started to look scared and the earlier fairly creative play changed into long-balling over the midfield. Abby Wambach scored 2-0 with a great finish from a Kristin Lilly pass 15 minutes into the second. Shortly after that Dennerby changed to a 4-3-3 and, towards the end of the match, something that looked like an attempt to play 4 attackers. Even a one-goal reduction of USA's win should have been valuable, but the Americans seemed much stronger and the difference increased during the match.

In the general comments after the match, there was total agreement that USA, not surprisingly, was the better team and that Sweden's chances to advance has turned from slim to almost non-existent. The team keeps up a brave face, even if Hanna Ljungberg admitted that they were dejected immediately after the match. Coach Dennerby insists that Sweden still has a good chance, one goal every thirty minutes against North Korea will do the job, a statement that earned him the nick-name Bagdad Bob in one of the tabloids.

SVT's commentator Thomas Wernersson points at three weaknesses in Sweden's play. The goalkeeping must be better. Hedvig Lindahl hasn't been her best, understandably after her long injury period, and this also spills over to the entire defense. The midfield plays to static, they win balls and pass them along, but they don't move forward. And the forwards must start scoring. The team create enough opportunities, but the finishing edge has been missing.

Caroline Jönsson in her Aftonbladet column comments on stand-in Hedvig Lindahl's mistake before the USA penalty kick and says that is the kind of misjudgements you can make when you lack in match training, but thinks Lindahl otherwise did a good job.

The Swedish Football Association's chairman Lars-Åke Lagrell said that Sweden's injuries before the World Cup decided the match before it was played. It is impossible for Sweden to defeat USA with anything less than our best: "They are so good, that we can't afford to play with our 12th choice player".

Stina Segerström was convinced her challenge on Chalupny was in the clear and couldn't believe her eyes when the referee pointed at the penalty point.

Therese Sjögran wasn't happy about being subbed out in the second half and several commentators agrees with her. "She was one of the few players that were still trying to play constructive by that time".

Pregame talk: Will Sweden play 4-4-2 and Wambach is a diving cheat

The player's frustration and disappointment after the draw against Nigeria was still evident on Wednesday, but now the focus has changed. Thursday's training was a closed set and there is rumoured to have been work on a new free-kick variation and on how to stop Abby Wambach. Team captain Victoria Svensson said the team is very eager to revenge themselves and are convinced that they have a good chance against USA.

Most of the talk has been on two topics. Will Sweden change to a 4-4-2 tactics against USA? There are several signs for that. Dennerby changed to the new 4-3-3 to cope with the loss of midfield engine Malin Moström and has used it consistently this season. But with the injuries to wing forwards like Josefine Öqvist and Frida Nordin, he has been forced to compromise and put a player like Therese Sjögran in a for her unnatural position on the outside. Playing 4-4-2 would also outnumber the American midfield, which is strong but not very speedy. And with 4-3-3 you often find yourself with only one player in the box, while 4-4-2 often gives you two targets to feed with passes. The Swedish coaches hasn't joined in this discussion at all, but since Dennerby usually isn't hard pressed to debate tactics his silence might be telling.

The other big topic has been Abby Wambach, the heart and soul of the American team according to coach Ryan. Swedish defenders aren't really fond of her style of playing: "She is both big and strong and shouldn't fall as easy as she does" comments Hanna Marklund, who thinks Wambach goes down when she choose to do so. Frida Östberg says Wambach is well known for taking a dive if you touch her and says she wouldn't award Wambach any fair play-prize. "But I wouldn't give myself one either", she said with a laugh.

And Nilla Fischer was back training with the team, so we'll probably see her on the field against USA.

Foreign players to reinforce relegation strugglers

Relegation strugglers Falköping and Qbik has used the World Cup break to secure reinforcements for the crucial last 4 matches.

Falköping has signed Kim Brandao, a Portugese defender who has played college soccer at Rutgers university and in the American W-league for New Jersey Wildcats, the same club as Falköping's Jill Oakes.
Falköpings KIK:
Kim förstärker FKIK

Qbik has welcomed Michele O'Brien and Lauren MacIver. O'Brien is a 27 year old midfielder with the Irish national team, has played college soccer for Perdue University and club soccer with Long Island Rough Riders. Lauren MacIver, a 23 year old from Oklahoma University, has played with Boston Renegades in the W-league. Both of them are brought in to strengthen Qbik's attack and have got in touch with the club thank's to Qbik's goalkeeper Maria Yatrakis.
EDIT: Annette, who knows much more about American college soccer than I do, points out than Michele O'Brien by no means went to Perdue but rather to something like Florida International University. Thank's Annette. I have tried to walk back in my own tracks to find out where I got the idea with Perdue, but alas, not a trace.
Nya Wermlandstidningen: De ska fixa kontraktet åt Qbik
Värmlands Folkblad: Duon som räddar Qbik?

Linköping, not a relegation struggler, continues to secure their squad for the 2008 season. They have re-signed their sought-after young forward talent Kosovare Asllani, full-back Marie-Louise Skålberg, back-up keeper Maria Cederholm, experienced forward Ann Westermark and midfield youngster Maria Krantz, the latter working to come back from her spring ACL injury.
Linköping FC: Kosse, Skålberg och Cederholm klara, Fler bitar på plats

Benny Persson leaves Djurgården

Djurgården's coach since two and a half years, Benny Persson, has revealed that he will leave his job after the end of the 2007 season. He took over the team in the summer of 2005 after a very weak start, only two wins in five matches, and managed to turn things around with a third place finish and a Swedish Cup victory 2005 and a second place 2006. Djurgården's chairman Per Darnell says that they are grateful for the new dimensions in playing and training that Persson brought to the club.

Djurgården: Benny Persson slutar i Djurgården Damfotboll

Huge disappointment after draw against Nigeria

Nigeria - Sweden  1 - 1 (0-0)
Sweden: Hedvig Lindahl (Linköping) - Anna Paulson (Umeå), Hanna Marklund (Sunnanå), Stina Segerström (Kif Örebro), Sara Thunebro (Djurgården) - Frida Östberg (Linköping), Caroline Seger (Linköping), Victoria Svensson (Djurgården) - Lotta Schelin (Göteborg) [83 Linda Forsberg (Djurgården)], Hanna Ljungberg (Umeå) [69 Sara Johansson (Hammarby)], Therese Sjögran (Malmö)
Goals: 0-1 Victoria Svensson (50), 1-1 Cynthia Uwak (82)
Attendance: 21,740

Sweden plays it's best with a knife against the throat, but this time the knife might actually cut the throat, writes Sydsvenskan columnist Anja Gatu after Sweden's 1-1 draw against Nigeria.

Sweden have lost their opening match in every previous World Cup, so this should have been an improvement, but nobody sees it like that. The match against Nigeria, the presumed weakest team in the group, was considered a must win for Sweden to advance. And for the first 60-70 minutes it worked pretty well. Sweden had most of the possession and had the best shots on goal, besides Victoria Svensson's goal also a couple of hits in the goalframe and some inspired saves by Nigeria's Precious Dede, while Nigeria only managed fairly weak finishes. But in the later half of the second Sweden's play lost intensity and they seemed satisfied to guard their one goal lead. Several commentators has pointed out that the substitution of Hanna Ljungberg after 70 minutes seemed give the (unintended) message to the team to back down and secure the lead. This is a dangerous state of mind and Nigeria pressed hard against the Swedish defense, that kept falling down in the closing minutes of the match. And personally I don't understand why players keep trying to argue with the referee about a decision that has already been made. Has that ever proved fruitful? If they instead had focused entirely on defendeing the free-kick, that led to Cynthia Uwak's equaliser, things might have turned out different?

Dagens Nyheter's Johan Esk says that he is not ready to give up on Sweden yet ("They are the slow starters of the big tournaments"), but when he compares Sweden-Nigeria to USA-North Korea, there is a world of difference and speed is the most important. Both defense and midfield will be tested much harder against both USA and Korea. He also notes that Sweden's 4-3-3 most of the time looked like 4-2-4, with Victoria Svensson playing in front of Hanna Ljungberg or at least side-by-side. Most of the other commentators are more straight forward - one week from now, Sweden is going home. And it wasn't really important that the team lost 2 points against Nigeria, since USA and North Korea also drew. Bit nobody can see the Sweden from yesterday being able to challenge the USA and North Korea teams playing the way they did earlier the same day.

I won't provide any links for my World Cup posts. You get great reports and stats at All swedish major news sites also have great coverage:
Dagens Nyheter:

The starters

The send-off game against Denmark gave a few valuable answers. Hanna Ljungberg can play and she can score (her 2 goals against Denmark took her to the top of Sweden's all-time scorer list with 71 goals, the same as Pia Sundhage and Lena Videkull). And Hanna and Victoria Svensson still knows how to find each other. And Hedvig Lindahl was able to play a match at high international level, even if she complained about being a bit tired towards the end. And the whole team needs to show more focus, energy, speed, quality and whatnot. Hopefully they will.

Sweden's starting 11 has been pretty much set for several weeks. Alreday bin the August issue of the bi-monthly football magazine Offside, Thomas Dennerby revealed his preferred team and gave some hints about how they will play, almost perfectly put into play with the goals against Denmark. Hanna Ljungberg playing centre forward with Lotta Schelin and Therese Sjögran on the flanks, Sjögran not restricted to the wing, but with a more free role (in a Brolin position for those who are familiar with Sweden's men's set-up in the 1994 World Cup). Caroline Seger and Nilla Fischer are both locked as the two more defensive midfielders, while Victoria Svensson gets the offensive responsibility. In the defense Hanna Marklund (always Dennerby's first pick) will team up with either Karolina Westberg or Stina Segerström, with a slight advantage for Segerström - Westberg looks a bit too much like Marklund, so Segerström can be a better complement. Anna Paulsson has no rivals as a right side full-back, while Frida Östberg and Sara Thunebro competes on the left side. If Segerström starts, Dennerby will probably field Östberg. He doesn't want too many championship newbies in the defense.

Ok, one small difference in the actual sttarting 11: Nilla Fischer, who recently has had a fever, rests and is replaced by Sara Thunebro in the midfield. Things like that worries me.

Swimming with Dolphins, Cuddling with Pandas

Tne Swedish national team travelled to China after having finished their team-building exercises in the same wildlife team as they had begun, now swimming with dolphins.

Sweden spent their first days in China in Beijing. Shopping and sight-seeing and some relaxed training sessions was coach Dennerby's reciepe against jet-lag and he really didn't want his player to start thinking about the Nigeria match too soon. So the stay in China started with the Silk Market,
Tienanmen square and the Great Wall. Dennerby's comment that there is nothing like the prospect of some good shopping to keep tired, jet-lagged women awake has been called chauvinistic, but I think he knows at least these women well.

The move to humid, but in comparison to Beijing cooler, Chengdu started with more animals, this time the national team players were petting pandas, but also much more serious training sessions. The  players have been looking very focused and several of them has, unwilling to quit training, stayed behind for among other things free-kick exercises.

A couple of minor events have scared at least the evening papers, but Hanna Ljungbergs shortened training session was planned and Victoria Svensson's thigh contusion isn't anything that will restrain her play.