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“KARL, can you do Sweden?”

Of course I can. I’m a pro. I can research with the best of them. In a previous job I once wrote a feature about the different types of fishing nets used for pelagic (oily fish) and demersal (white) species. See, one fish swims in mid and warmer water while the other sits lower in the depth. Fascinating, it was. I’m sure you came across it.

Sweden though. Shouldn’t be too difficult. The trick here is to list all things you know about the subject and select the more salient facts and work with them. Let’s have a look then.

Things I Know About Sweden:

  1. Zlatan has a black belt in Taekwondo.
  2. Abba’s S.O.S. is far superior to the overly showy Dancing Queen thanks to the way it kicks in after the lovelorn opening verse. Massively underrated. As is Eagle.
  3. My mate Si is married to a Swedish woman called Sara who I like immensely because she smiles weakly at my shit jokes.
  4. Something about Volvo.
  5. My friends Sara and Steve both lived in Sweden for a while.
  6. 100 per cent of the Saras I know have lived in Sweden.
  7. The lyrics to Does Your Mother Know are suspect to say the least.
  8. Glenn Hysen.
  9. My mate Per is Swedish.
  10. I’ve never been to Sweden.

There you go. Taekwondo, cars and women called Sara. This is exactly what the people want.

Hang on. Let’s try and up this a bit.

Sweden drew 1-1 against Brazil in 1978. They nearly lost 2-1 as Zico scored but Clive Thomas (Porthcawl) ruled it out like this…

It wasn’t like Clive Thomas (Porthcawl) to revel in such attention. That said, I like how Brazil don’t seem that arsed.

What else? Well, they’ve always had great kits — both home and away — but they’ve badly let the side down with this year’s away kit which is a horrible mixture of blues decreasing in shade. There was once a time when it was just blue with a badge on it. They’ve stuck pretty rigidly to the yellow and blue kits. This is a good thing.

The Swedes have always seemed a friendly bunch at tournaments with their nice kits and blond hair. During the 1912 Olympics their fans chanted ‘Heja Sverige Friskt humör, det är det som susen gör’ which roughly means “Go Sweden, being in good spirits is what does the trick!” I’m keen to get our version of that going next season. The Main Stand will be all over it.

As ludicrous as the FIFA World Rankings are, Sweden are currently 35th thanks to getting out of a pretty tricky qualification group. They needed to beat Denmark in the play-off after finishing behind Russia and Austria — teams they drew against. Their leading goal scorers were Erkan Zengin of Trabzonspor and…well, guess.

Of course Sweden is all about Zlatan. He’s the talisman, the goal scorer, the heart and, let’s face it, the ego. The man doesn’t want for confidence. He refused a trial at Arsenal because “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions” and once said of Stephane Henchoz ,”First I went left, he did too. Then I went right and he did too. Then I went left again and he went to buy a hotdog.” Fair enough. Stephane Henchoz has never missed a two-yard tap in against Italy though, mate.

Despite the towering arrogance he’s quite a likeable figure unlike Ronaldo, say, who is also expected to drag his nation through the group stages by force of his own personality.

Maybe it’s because he doesn’t sulk when things aren’t going his way or feel the need to take his shirt off every 10 minutes. You work out, lad. We get it.

Maybe he needs that ego to make him the player he is. There aren’t many players in our league who are like that thanks to a mixture of media training and fan schadenfreude. Zlatan doesn’t seem to be afraid of hubris and he’s doing all right.

The thing I like most about Zlatan? He’s been to Anfield twice and done nothing. Thanks for that.

He did this though.

Yeah, that was okay.

As for the tournament, it’s not looking good. As I write this they’ve just lost to a late Italian goal and are yet to register a single shot on target in the tournament. They face Belgium in the last game and need to beat them to be in with a shout of going through. They’ll need a shot, too.

If they really are a one-man side they’re in trouble if that man is having a forgettable tournament. Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson hasn’t troubled anyone either and his set pieces can hurt sides but not lately.

Maybe they’ll have to rely on their good spirits. Apparently they really do the trick.

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