England 1-1 Sweden (World Cup 2002 Group Game)- 2nd June 2002
In January 2001 England shocked the world by appointing their first foreign manager in Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson. Eriksson took over with the team at a low ebb but quickly resuscitated a stalled World Cup qualifying campaign to secure England’s place at the finals in Japan. The draw inevitably put Eriksson against his home nation as well as Argentina & Nigeria in what was immediately dubbed the group of death.
The build up was dominated by 2 issues: uncertainty over the fitness of England talisman David Beckham who’d missed the last month of the season with a broken metatarsal bone and Sven’s affair with Ulrika Jonsson. With Kieron Dyer also struggling Eriksson played Emile Heskey to the left of his midfield that was finally able to include Beckham. England made the better start and after 24 minutes got the goal when a floated Beckham corner was powered home by Sol Campbell. England controlled the half but a long-range effort from Ashley Cole was the closest they came to a second. But Sweden fought back and after 59 minutes Danny Mills’ poor control saw him make a weak clearance which Niclas Alexandersson picked up and fired home. Beckham only lasted a further 4 minutes and Sweden finished the stronger but fortunately their best chance fell to defender Teddy Lucic who fired straight at David Seaman. A point each handed Argentina the early lead in the group but it was England & Sweden who progressed.
England 2-2 Sweden (World Cup 2006 Group Game)- 20th June 2006
It had to happen! Sven’s final campaign in charge of England saw him draw his home nation again. This time the group was easier and England would meet Sweden in the final group game, with England already assured of qualification and Sweden only needing to avoid a heavy defeat to join them. Sven made a couple of changes giving Wayne Rooney his first World Cup start after that infamous metatarsal injury but it was his strike partner Michael Owen who grabbed the headlines when he tore his ACL after 4 minutes- he would never play a tournament game for England again. But England got themselves going through the sheer brilliance of Joe Cole who nonchalantly volleyed one of his country’s greatest ever goals. Sweden equalised early in an entertaining second half however it appeared England had won it when man of the match Cole set up Steven Gerrard for a bullet header 5 minutes from time. But England again found new and interesting ways not beat Sweden with a long Swedish throw bouncing through to Henrik Larsson to push home: honours even and both sides were into the last 16.
England 1-0 Sweden (Friendly)- 15th November 2011
England finally ended their Swedish hoodoo in what would turn out to be Fabio Capello’s last game as England manager. Capello seemed to be building a promising new team after the disaster in South Africa and was buoyed by a win over World Champions Spain 3 days earlier. Capello picked an experimental line up lead by John Terry but featuring Phil Jones (who Capello compared to Franco Baresi), Jack Rodwell, Bobby Zamora & Kyle Walker.
Walker and Theo Walcott combined well down the right probing and pushing Sweden back but the breakthrough came down the left with Stewart Downing floating a cross for Gareth Barry to head home England’s 2000th goal in international football. England were dominant and a layoff from Zamora played in Jones who split the Swedish centre backs and power through only to poke his shot just wide. Downing broke down the left and pulled out a perfect cross for Rodwell who hit the woodwork when it seemed easier to score. England continued to look the better side into the second half with Zamora going close and another surging run from Downing saw him fire straight at the ‘keeper. But England couldn’t add to their lead and Seb Larsson looked increasingly dangerous. But England held out for a first win over Sweden in 43 years.
England 3-2 Sweden (Euro 2012 Group Game)- 15th June 2012
Only 3 weeks on from England finally beating Sweden the draw for Euro 2012 put the 2 countries together again but 2 months later Capello quit over the John Terry racial abuse scandal. In May the FA appointed Roy Hodgson as Capello’s replacement. Hodgson had made his name in Swedish club football and was revered for the coaching ideas he’d brought to Scandinavia. Now he could eliminate them from Euro 2012, England had drawn their opener but Sweden had lost theirs and needed a win to stay alive.
Hodgson without the injured Rooney brought in the powerful Andy Carroll for his aerial presence whilst Swedish hopes rested largely on the broad shoulders of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. England started well and took the lead when Carroll rose above both Swedish centre backs to power home Gerrard’s searching cross 1-0 after 24 minutes. England were in the ascendancy with Ashley Young going close whilst Sweden were reduced to long-range shots.
But early in the second half the pendulum swung when Ibrahimovic’s free kick was charged down but Zlatan got to the rebound to play in Olaf Melberg whose shot forced Glenn Johnson into an own goal 1-1. Ten minutes on and things got worse when Seb Larsson’s swinging free kick found former Aston Villa man Melberg and his downward header beat Joe Hart for a 2-1 lead. Hodgson made an immediate change bringing on Theo Walcott as England pushed forward with Terry forcing a corner which Sweden weakly cleared as far as Walcott who lifted a looping shot from the edge of the box into the roof of the Swedish net to equalise. The game was becoming stretched with Kallstrom blazing over the bar and Ibra stinging Hart’s palms with a powerful drive. But it was England who found the winner with Johnson setting Walcott sprinting down the right and delivering a cross which Danny Welbeck neatly back heeled for a 3-2 lead. Minutes later England launched a swift passing move instigated by Gerrard on the edge of England’s box and almost finished by the same player after another neat Walcott cross. England held on and eliminated Zlatan’s men and gained a first ever competitive victory over Sweden in what was easily the most entertaining game in this series.
Sweden 4-2 England (Friendly)- 14th November 2012
The most recent game in the series wasn’t amongst the most consequential but did feature the best individual performance by a player in the 24 games between the two nations. The occasion was the opening game of Sweden’s new national stadium and Zlatan provided a performance to fit the occasion. Hodgson handed debuts to Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling & Tottenham defender Steven Caulker. But Caulker had a horror start failing to clear in front of the main man who despatched the loose ball into the top of England’s goal. But England soon countered with Welbeck again a thorn in Sweden’s side as he poked home Young’s cross to level. Three minutes later England were ahead with Caulker making amends for his earlier error by slotting home from a Gerrard free kick.
England were coasting through the second half and on 74 minutes Hodgson made a series of changes including taking off Caulker and replacing him with Ryan Shawcross. Within 3 minutes Shawcross had lost Zlatan who was free to equalise from a through ball. 6 minutes later Shawcross fouled him and Zlatan picked himself up to blast home the free kick for a 3-2 lead and then to cap it all Hart headed a clearance and with his back to the ball Zlatan scissor kicked a volley all of 25 yards into an empty net, incredible!
The good news is Zlatan isn’t in the current Swedish squad as the 2 sides prepare for their first ever meeting in knockout football. I can’t wait!