Anorak News | 1968 And All That

1968 And All That

by | 1st, April 2004

‘FOR all England’s talk of success in Euro 2004 or, more probably, the 2006 World Cup, the fact remains this morning that we haven’t beaten Sweden for nigh on four decades.


Sweden are a decent side, but they cannot claim to be one of the giants of European football, let alone the world game.

And if apologists say that England are a different side in competitive matches than they are in friendly games, well, so are Sweden, whose 1-0 win last night was their first in 16 such matches.

The Telegraph suggests that England are too reliant on their first-choice players – such as David Beckham, Ashley Cole, Gary Neville, Sol Campbell and Michael Owen, all of whom were absent.

“If England are close to full strength in Portugal, they have a chance of reaching the semi-finals,” it says.

“Any debilitating injuries to key tempo-setting or defensive personnel on the eve of the tournament and England’s odds plummet.”

True enough, but reaching the semi-final can hardly be regarded as a great achievement.

England are the four best team on the continent, according to the official Fifa rankings and, of the teams above them, both Spain and the Netherlands are renowned as being flaky.

France are undoubtedly the best team in Europe, a position built on 14 straight wins until last night’s 0-0 draw in Rotterdam.

The papers do find solace in certain performances, with Jermain Defoe the one who really stands out.

And, says, the Indy Sven Goran Eriksson can take comfort from the fact that his team were comfortably the better side until Sweden scored in the 54th minute.

“Defoe came on and did very well,” the Swede told the Times after the game. “I could see that he’s a big talent. He’ll be even better in the future because he’ll be physically stronger, but I like what I saw.”

Coincidentally, the year in which England last recorded a win over Sweden was the year in which England last recorded a series win in the West Indies.

But such is the optimism within the country after Michael Vaughan’s men took a 2-0 lead in the four-match series that it is spilling over into overconfidence.

The Guardian’s Matthew Engel hears one punter set off to Barbados with the words, “I hope we don’t beat them too badly”.

“Not beat them too badly!” Engel chunters. “When England suffered two successive blackwashes in the mid-1980s, did any West Indian say: ‘Don’t beat them too badly, Viv mon’?”

Who knows? A first series win in the Caribbean since 1968 and the England football team might even beat Sweden…’

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