England vs Sweden (i) 1968- 1999: Blood, Turnips & Tears

Tomorrow afternoon England and Sweden will play the biggest game either nation has known since the mid 1990’s. These two teams have history and plenty of it points in Sweden’s favour. In all Englands’ record against the Swedes reads won 8, drawn 9, lost 7 but 4 of those wins came before England even entered a World Cup in 1950, here’s a look at some of the biggest England clashes with Sweden.

England 3-1 Sweden (Friendly)- 22nd May 1968

The World Champions warmed up for the Euro ’68 finals with this routine win over the Swedes at Wembley with a team that included gave an international chance to Manchester United ‘keeper Alex Stepney and Tottenham left back Cyril Knowles (he of nice one Cyril!). But it was the boys of ’66 who won it with Martin Peters & Bobby Charlton scoring in quick succession before halftime. Roger Hunt added a third before the Swedes pulled one back in injury time. Stepney never played for England again and England didn’t record another win over Sweden for 43 years not that those 2 facts are related!

Sweden 0-0 England (World Cup 1990 Qualifier)- 6th September 1989

England’s Italia ’90 campaign is legendary but their qualification was dishwater dull. England set the tone with their first ever competitive fixture with Sweden: a 0-0 draw at Wembley. It meant when England headed to Stockholm for the return they couldn’t afford a loss. Many sensed danger particularly with captain Bryan Robson missing out through yet another injury. The armband was given to Terry Butcher who suffered a bad cut to his forehead early in the game and needed bandaging up like a mummy but remarkably kept on playing. Bobby Robson used the sight of the wounded leader to inspire his team at half time and England comfortably held out for a draw. The tabloids labelled Butcher the ‘Bloody Hero’ although later some revised this to ‘Bloody Idiot’ in the light of concussion concerns. What’s beyond dispute is Butcher was incredibly brave to stay on and England only required a point in Poland to guarantee qualification.

Terry Butcher covered in blood after England's draw with Sweden in 1989
Butcher after leading England to a vital point

Sweden 2-1 England (European Championships 1992 Group Game)- 17th June 1992

England’s Euro ’92 campaign was like the hangover after the party of Italia ’90. Grahan Taylor’s England managed 0-0 draws in their first two games meaning England needed to beat hosts Sweden in the final group match. Taylor’s team was well organised but functional and had no right back, after starting the tournament with Keith Curle by this late stage David Batty was playing in the problem position yes you read that correctly David Batty was playing right back! nonetheless the game started brilliantly for England with Batty involved in a quick move down the right-wing that set Gary Lineker free who crossed for David Platt to volley home on 3 minutes.

Tomas Brolin grabs the winner

England remained on top through the first half but Sweden came out for the second in a revised 4-3-3 system and started to dominate. The Swedes got their reward on 51 minuets when Jan Eriksson buried a header from a corner. England in desperate need of a goal were struggling to get back into the game and Taylor made a decision that would alienate him from England fans- he took off Lineker who was retiring after the tournament and replaced him with Alan Smith. It didn’t lead to an improvement and 9 minutes from time Swedish boy wonder Tomas Brolin played a brilliant 1-2 with Martin Dahlin to fire home as ITV’s Brian Moore sounding like he was breaking into a Dolly Parton song “Brolin, Dahlin, Dahlin, Brolin…” England were out and the next morning Taylor was rechristened Turnip, Sweden lost their semi final to Germany seeing bitter rivals Denmark take home the trophy from their tournament and worst of all four years later Brolin would turn up at Leeds a tubby shadow of his former self.

The Sun give a typically subtle analysis of England’s Euro exit

England 3-3 Sweden (Umbro 1995)- 8th June 1995

Terry Venables was still looking for the right formula for his Euro ’96 team when England rocked up at Elland Road to face Sweden for the Umbro Cup (a friendly tournament). Venables picked a puzzling lineup featuring a midfield of Peter Beardsley, David Platt, John Barnes & Darren Anderton whilst in defence he handed a debut to Nottingham Forest centre back Colin Cooper. Sweden took advantage of England’s experimental line-up and 2 awful parries by Tim Flowers saw Hakan Mild follow up  to grab a brace and an early 2-0 lead. Teddy Sheringham pulled one back when controlled a looping high ball and volleyed home: 2-1 at half time.

No sooner had the second half started than Sweden had a third when Kennet Andersson caught Flowers off his line and looped the ball into the England net. It seemed England were going down to a first defeat under El Tel, But Venables brought on Gascoigne and England pushed for a goal and in the 89th minute Gascoigne swept in a free kick for Platt to head home 3-2. From the restart a long ball was knocked down by Alan Shearer into the path of Darren Anderton who volleyed from the edge of the box for a thrilling 3-3 draw. Venables had plenty to ponder but it was clear Anderton & Gascoigne would be part of the solution and Cooper & Warren Barton perhaps not.

Platt leads the late fightback at Elland Road

Sweden 2-1 England (Euro 2000 Qualifier)- 5th September 1998

Going into the 1998 World Cup Glenn Hoddle could do little wrong even with the presence of Eileen Drewery. But a disappointing early exit followed by the publication of a controversial World Cup diary cast doubts over Hoddle’s future as England reconvened for Euro 2000 qualifying. The campaign openeed with a tricky away trip to Stockholm with Jamie Redknapp replacing the suspended David Beckham. But England got a dream start with Shearer rifling home a free kick in the second minute. But Sweden got a stroke of luck when David Seaman failed to hold a freekick and Andreas Andersson swept up the rebound 1-1. A minute later and mayhem in the England box saw a cross fall to midfielder Johan Mjalby who poked home and suddenly England were 2-1 down. The second half saw England grow frustrated and Paul Ince see red with Sweden holding on for a deserved win.

Gareth Southgate battles Andreas Andersson

By the time Sweden visited Wembley the following year Hoddle had been replaced by Kevin Keegan but England were again indisciplined and lost Paul Scholes to a red card early in the second half and Sweden saw out a drab 0-0 draw. England’s Euro 2000 qualifying campaign was so bad that afer playing all their own games they needed the already qualified Swedes to do them a favour and beat Poland in the final qualifying match just to get in the playoffs. The Swedes obliged and England finally made it to Belgium via a playoff win over Scotland.

At the close of the millennium England fans considered Sweden a bogey side but one that wasn’t at the forefront of their minds. But a year into the new century and a Swede was the talk of England…to be continued.


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