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World Cup Diary

STATIONS OF THE CROSS

GAME 35, GROUP B, JUNE 20, 2006 --COLOGNE
SWEDEN 2, ENGLAND 2
FINAL

The question of course is this: whose crucifixion will this match be, ours? England is already assured a place in the next round. Sweden can assure its place with a draw regardless, or with a loss if the Trinidad-Paraguay ends in a draw or a loss for Trinidad & Tobago. Aside from Sweden's exciting game with Trinidad, the games involving England and Sweden have been this tournament's bores. Sweden has had moments of joy. England has been desperately dull, at times stupid, and in its first game just plain lucky to get out with a win--thanks to an own goal by Paraguay. Watching England, you wonder how teams like Nigeria or Colombia or Greece (the Euro 2004 champion) or Norway managed not to make it to the final 32, buit England did. And they picked this side as a favorite in the tournament? But we've also seen several teams turn it around. Ukraine did it. The Americans did it terrifically. The French tried. Brazil and England are still big question marks. The winner of this group will play Ecuador; the runner-up will play Germany. So it's not as if England and Sweden don't have an incentive to win: Given these two teams' slumbers and Germany's newfound power, whoever has to play Germany will be going home after that match. Word has it Wayne Rooney is in the lineup from the start, so the English want to play Ecuador. We'll see. Cologne smells of a typically drizzly draw.

00... AND HERE WE GO. The primary colors are on the field (the most color we've seen from these two teams in four matches), Rooney is already off the pitch, his knee pulsing for mama. Or was that Owen? Owen is out of the game, Peter Crouch, who redeemed himself after making a pitch for worst-player honors in the last match, is limbering up.

5... The game doesn't yet have character. Lampard ran a long way toward goal, shot, and though the save was conventional, two more England players were right on the keeper in case one of those rebounds came their way. Not what I expected: England hasn't beated Sweden since the year of the Tet Offensive. Four losses, seven (typical) draws.

10... England is on the ball, Rooney gets a couple of touches, decent enough, but that means we have to put up with commentators getting verbal erections every time he does: it's not as if he did much with the ball. Speaking of erections: the commentators were all aflutter about Rooney's topless billboards in England. I'll see what I can do about cribbing one over here. (That shot at left is the best I could do.)

Approaching 15 minutes, and so far one and a half English attacks, maybe a third of a Swedish attack. One shot on goal between the two teams.

22... Sweden with a free kick a few inches outside the box, near side. Big chance. Maybe a little action. Bent in straight at the Hyundai sign behing the England line.

25... Rooney takes a pass from half-way upfield, right into the box, evades two swedes for what looked like a sure ball, but the kick finds a defender.

At least England and Sweden are living down to their expectations. A dull game by two dull sides that have yet to find anything like a stride. There was a Beckham sighting just now, the first of this game. But it was just the camera trying to stroke his backside. Beckham has yet to put a touch on the ball.

Well there he is: Beckham just took a perfect shot on goal from damn near the near sideeline, the keeper saved it, just, for a coenr, but England doesn't do much with it.

No chance.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ENGLAND! JOE COLE!

34... ENGLAND WAS ON THE ATTACK, SWEDEN REPEALED THE BALL FROM THE BOX, BUT STRAIGHT AT JOE COLE SOME 35 yards out, he chests it, rockets it, and it arcs just above the keeper and in back of goal. One of the prettier goals of the tournament. England's fourth goal in three games.

Germany's Miroslav Klose of course has 4 goals all by himself.

44... But England has been putting on a better show than Sweden, and Rooney, for all the expectations, has been living up to them. He's the playmaker here. But it really isn;t a fine game the way we've had this week. It's an England-Sweden game all right.

Half-time...

The cross of St. Cole

SECOND HALF...

50... Corner for Sweden... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! 1-1

Marcus Allback took a fine low corner kick from the near side and head-flicked it on the upper right end of goal, past everyone.

A little more life to this game, which until then had been a typically Swedish-English affair: honeymoon on the North Sea.

SWEDEN JUST LOOKED LIKE IT HAD ANOTHER ONE, but no, a corner that caught the crossbar, because no game in this World Cup is complete without its stash of crossbar shots. Imagine upcoming penalty shoot-outs.

61... The game is now Sweden's to win or lose.

"Suddenly it's the Sweden fans, who have been subdued for long periods, who sense their side can go in for the kill, with Allback's equaliser and Ljungberg hitting the bar. It is interesting to wonder what Eriksson said to England at half-time, given their history of poor performances in the second-half. England's supporters are even more subdued having just seen Rio Ferdinand come off."
Phil McNulty, BBC Sport in Cologne.

More from the BBC, unbiased of course: "Despite Sweden's equaliser, users of the Player Rater say England will still finish the night on top of Group B. 81% of users who respond to a poll say Sven-Goran Eriksson's men will top the group ahead of the Swedes."

Rooney, not quite on target tonight

69... Wayne Rooney had less of an impact on the game after all. He leaves, Gerard goes in. Rooney looks upset, as he ought to be: a couple of good touches, more brawn than skill.

The BBC is referring to "the furious pace of the game" just falling off slightly. Am I missing something? Actually: a great save for England, Gerard (who just came into the game) toed a ball headed for gall out of play. It had gotten past the keeper, and Gerard barely put a boot on it.

74... Actually this second half hasn't been without its leaps, and the tension isn;t bad either. Sweden are trying harder, England are anxious, the whistles are rousing the crowd (against England), not yet the players. Beckham, who might as well be stuck on the English Channel, offers up a corner, Peter Crouch header, right at goal.

81... Beckham squares again for a long free kick into the box, and it sails well off target, past goal. Paraguay is winnin 1-0, a result that guarantees Sweden's advance in case this is a draw, but also guarantees England winning the group. So we seem to be heading for an England-Ecuador match-up, and a Sweden-Germany one--and if the impossible happens, we could be seeing these two teams again in the quarterfinal (I think). But look!

85...GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ENGLAND! gerard! again with the subs. Joe Cole chipped a beautiful lob from the edge of the box toward Gerard inside it, he rose above his defender and knocked the ball in for the 2-1 lead.

90... GGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL SWEDEN!

iT'S THe old man Henrik Larsson knocking it in after it knocked about all over the six-yard box, following a throw-in. And now Sweden have 60 seconds left in injury time to try to break the tie. England won't have its first victory against the Swedes in a generation after all.

We predicted a draw, we got a draw, though they made a better game of it than the first half presaged. So it will be Germany-Sweden and England-Ecuador, giving England what would seem to be an undeserved way into the quarterfinals--unless Ecuador return to their earlier form.

 

 

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