More fun with America Sr.: The English - with a lead from Mr. Waxed Head Wayne Rooney - are already into the second round, but they need to a draw or a win to secure the top seed coming out of Group B. A win by Sweden here gives them the top seed, and a draw guarantees them a spot in the second round. And even with a loss, they'll want to keep it close; Trinidad and Tobago are three goals behind in differential.
Your live-blogger this afternoon is Brandon H., who has live-blogged with us before (and did a damned fine job, if you ask us). Email him with comments, chime in in the comments and, you know, blimey.
FULL TIME, and the match ends as a 2-2 draw. The commentators make a big deal of England not having beaten Sweden for almost forty years, but an even bigger deal is that England finish first in their group, and that means no Germany in Round 2.
(Another big deal, of course, is the Owen injury. You think Sven regrets not bringing Jermaine Defoe along for the ride now? We'll see.)
Sweden will probably provide the first real test for the Germans in defending, especially if Ibrahimovic is back. But hey, for me it was just great to see Henrik Larsson score a goal in Swedish colors live. Very exciting game, with Joe Cole as the solid choice for man of the match.
I'm CliffX and thanks for reading. We now bring you back to the stunningly good looks and awful speech skills of Julie Foudy.
93' Balboa rails against the England defense, but I think he's being kind of harsh at this point. The defenders had been nearly flawless throughout the group stage up until that moment. Not that bad a thing, Marcelo. Three minutes added time.
91' Just into stoppage time, the England defense completely misses the ball from the throw-in, and Larsson is there to put it in for 2-2. Sweden make one final substitution to see if they can shock the Lions.
90' AND THEN A GOAL FROM LARSSON!
89' Sweden get a corner, then a free cross, then another free cross, then a throw-in...
87' Ljungberg brushes against J. Cole, who sells it as a bid dive...and Freddie's been carded! Ouch, bad call ref.
86' Joe Cole chips it BEAUTIFULLY to Gerard, whose header is world class, as Isaksson is helpless. 2-1 England. The only dampening note is ESPN shoving the freaking Virgin megastores in L.A. down our throats. There doesn't even seem to be that many England fans present. So stupid. Convergence and synergy can bite my ass.
86' GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!! BLOGGING IS FUN!!!
84' Alexandersson gets Joe Cole in the nuts on a bad tackle and gets a yellow for it. Poor Joe. But he plays for Chelsea, so he'll surely find a cute south London lass to put ice on his lads.
81' England just isn't doing a whole lot, and that's shame. Their tactics are just sitting and trying to hang around the midfield, rather than being aggressive and using Joe Cole or whomever to cross the ball in and give Sweden's defense all sorts of problems. Beckham takes a free kcik from about forty yards out, but that misses and goes out into touch. Beckham hasn't been as sharp today as he was against T&T.
80' Ljungberg makes a trademark breakthrough on the left, and Hargreaves LOL makes a trademark foul. Free kick is cleared, so no harm. Later, a handball for Edman.
78' Note from Jason: Dave O'Brien must be shot, drawn, and quartered as soon as possible for the sake of our humanity. Goddamn does he suck. (end note from Jason) Beckham corners it to Crouch, whose header is excellent but right at Isaksson.
76' Yellow card for Hargreves LOL!!! And it wasn't for an errant handball, but rather for swatting his hand at the ref! The tabloids are going to love that one tomorrow. Free kick is off target, like most free kicks today.
75' Substitution: Elmander for Allback, who gets an ovation from those good-looking Swedes.
73' BECAUSE YOU'RE MINE, I WALK THE LINE. A shot from a corner goes toward goal for Sweden, but Gerard clears off the line. England get a corner on the other side and can't do much with it.
71' Great long ball to Larsson who timed his run perfectly and gets a corner. Meanwhile we see Rooney fuming on the bench, either angry about his performance or coming out. Knowing what most Englishmen think of Eriksson, it's probably the latter!
68'Whoops, spoke too soon. I think Hargreaves LOL just got a foul. Also a substitue: Gerard on...Rooney off. So now it's a possession game for England.
66' A quick complaint about the commentating: they're talking less and doing better than the first two weeks, but they've all been talking way too much about the USA game this Thursday. I'm not watching this game to get info on the US, I'm watching because it's England versus Sweden. Rant over. Hargreves LOL literally boxes out a defender on the right and wins a foul. Hey, he's actually having a pretty good game!
64' It's 1-0 Paraguay over T&T, so Sweden may not need to change much at this rate. Beckham sends a corner to Crouch, who can't lock it on target.
63' Christian Wilhemsson, a substitue we apparently missed, runs down the right and strolls the ball to the strikers. England's defense holds up to the challenge.
60' ANOTHER NEAR GOAL FOR THE SWEDES! Sweden get in the box again (geez!), and Mellberg shoots at that darn crossbar. Babloa mentions how it's important to control the midfield. You know what that means? Time to put in Gerard. Btw, it's probably very obvious I'm cheering for England, but c'est la vie. If you've ever seen Trafalger Square with your own eyes, you'd cheer for England, too.
58' Thus far in this half Crouch and Rooney have been quiet. Cole has made some strong runs, but England are very much defending, which is a shame. Their midfield is too quick to have that kind of a mindset.
56' Substitution: Sol Campbell for Ferdinand. England immediately become more attractive.
55' CROSS-BARRR...and a near goal at that. My man Larsson flicks it off a corner and it hits the bar; Ljungberg argues for a goal, but replays show but's probably not the case. Sween get another corner and are being MUCH more aggressive.
54' The England fans won't be let down, and keep singing and goading their team on. Crouch turns his body for a shot but Isaksson covers.
51' Ibrahimovic's replacement, Allback, gets a head onto the corner and beats Robinson on the right side of the net. Quite startling, but hey, I told you so! 1-1 After the break.
50' Sweden try something, anything, as Ljungberg flicks it back to the right. Ball comes back to him and he gets a shot, but the great defender John Terry places it out of bounds.
48' England chip it about, then play on a theme in sending it to Cole of th eleft. He gets a couple of chances to cross it in, and eventually it ends with a corner. Good sequence.
46' We return, as O'Brien says Owen's headed to the hospital for a likely scan. That injury was absolutely bizarre, and what a shame too. It's almost the story of his life.
And now for the half time special, with my friend and local village idiot, Jason Bolte!!!
Great match so far. If I had to give an MVP, it automatically goes to Joe Cole. Screw Rooney, screw David "Merry Wife of Castle Greyskull" Beckham. This is Joe Cole's team today. Or Union Jack, the thirteenth player, even though this is just the England team.
Despite the incredible shot by my man crush J. Co, Sweden's defense has been playing well. Isaksson had one flub, but everyone else has been in Rooney's, Crouch's, Owen's (for a minute and a half), and Becks' respective faces. Too bad their offense is lingering like Operation Sea Lion.
Of all the overrated people on England's team, Rooney is definitely getting overhyped. I understand his roots and his overcoming adversity with his foot injury, blah blah blah, but his spotlight for the past couple of days has not been justified thus far in the game. Let's hope he steps it up in the second half, or else his billboards will be defaced with "Choke choke choke" by tomorrow morning. He could rival Brett "Choke artist" Favre. I also suspect Rooney to be a part of the British Nationalist Party and possibly the wood block player for either Skrewdriver or Valkyrie. He's definitely some sort of hooligan.
And why the hell is ESPN showing footage of the Virgin store in LA during this match? I know the CEO of Virgin is a tap dancing d-bag from Britain, but why not show London or Liverpool? I'm sure those people are way more excited than some heroin chic aspiring waitress in Hollywood. They're even going to show Death Cab for Cutie and U2 during halftime, because there's no better way of showing British pride than a band from Ireland. I honestly think that Bono, being the eternal causewhore, would play for the Klan if they asked him really nicely.
Good game so far. Let's hope it keeps up. I'm pulling for England, but a Sweden win would be sweet as well. Hell, a tie would even be exciting, although it still baffles me that a tie game can be considered anything other than a buzzkill (although US v. Italy is a notable exception). Take care, here's CliffX.
45' England show great teamwork in getting a shot ready for Lampard, but it meets the 'keeper. HALF TIME, with England up 1-0 over the Swedes. If you're an England fan, you are LOVING your team so far. They're doing everything people expected them to do against T&T and Paraguay. Expect Sweden to be much more urgent in the next half.
45' It's winding down now, and one minute of stoppage time is added. England are making one last play toward goal. Cole is a mastermind tonight, man.
42' Balboa notes that England have been playing in midday, and playing at 9 PM Cologne time is making their bodies more lithe. Meanwhile, ESPN infuriates the shit out of us by showing England fans watching the game at a bar in Hollywood, including fans waiting for a band that opens for U2 to start playing. That is just stupid. Rooney takes a shot, but a tad too high.
40' NEAR GOAL AGAIN! Lampard has plenty of space to send another one over the bar.
39'Ljungberg makes a run inside, but Ferdinand cuts him short. I'm not sure if Sweden have even tested Robinson yet. Larsson tries a cross, but that actually goes TO Robinson. Nothing yet for Sweden.
38' The English fans singing "God Save the Queen" gives me, the players, O'Brien, and all of you severe chills. England are flying, especially Cole and Rooney.
37' I yelled extremely loud at that goal. I'm a singer, so Cole better not score again or I'll get a node. O'Brien annoys me by trying to make a big deal of Gary Neville being hurt for England, but I think Jamie Carragher (his replacement) is just as good. He's been solid thus far in this tournament.
35' And what goal it was! The ball comes down to Joe Cole on the left. He brings it down his CHEST, straight to his right foot, then cracks the shot from over thirty yards away. The ball sails off Isaksson's hand and into the net. Unbelievable goal, the best of the tournament so far. 1-0 England.
32' Cole fouls Alexandersson on the right side of the box, but Sweden waste that moment. Jason think's that Alexandersson's only wearing long sleeves tonight so that people can read his entire long-ass name.
31' Beckham fouls the heck out of the defender on the left side, although he thinks the guy flopped. Play goes on.
29' BALBOA SPEAKS!!! He says the Joe Cole foul that just happened was like a scissor kick, or something stupid like that. Jason and I liken it to Ryu's Shoruken move in Street Fighter. Beckham then launches an awesome shot straight at Isaksson, and Balboa calls it a "bullet bent by Beckham." He's hot. Not as hot as Julie Foudy, but still.
27' Exchange during a close-up of Rio Ferdinand
Jason: "Who's that ugly dude?"
Me: "That's Rio Ferdinand. He sucks, he's overrated."
Jason: "It's because of his Spanish mullet, isn't it?"
26' ROONEY! He gets alone in the box, but Lucic blocks his shot at the last second. Great defending, once again.
25' ...but that's short, too. England keep possession (Hargreaves LOL even gets a shot in), but Sweden is a solid wall of hot-looking bald men.
24' Get ready for an orgasm, DEAD BALL FOR BECKHAM!!! He's shooting from the left side...
23' ...but Kallstrom hits it a bit too strong. Goal kick, England have it back. Exciting stuff, I know.
22' Sideline official calls a handball on call. Free kick...
21' TOO HIGH! Joe Cole heeds my advice and cracks it from outside, dead center. The ball sails just over the crossbar.
19' Another Swedish corner, very high and coming to Lucic's right foot. He hits is great, but it's for ANOTHER corner. Easy clearance for the Three Lions.
17' Owen Hargreaves LOL features! Kicks the ball away for a corner, which England subsequently clear.
16' Joe Cole does some nifty dribbling, plays it to Crouch in the box, but it's just over the big guy's head. I say just keep firing shots from outside the box.
14'Surprisingly (and somewhat shamefully) ESPN hasn't released the starting lineups for either side. Sweden feed it to the right side and make a cross toward Kallstrom, who can't connect.
12'It's evident early on that England's midfield are working really hard to control this game. Rooney also now makes some beautiful moves with the ball. England cross it to Lampard in center but his header is off. England are dominating possession thus far.
10'"Trinidad & Tobago are zero-zero with Parguay," says O'Brien. It's nil-nil, you ugly American! Meanwhile, Joe Cole makes a great run via a through ball but he's BARELY offside.
8' Kallstrom, who's impressed in this Cup for Sweden, tries a shot, but it's blocked. England's defending has been tremendous in this Cup, it really has. With Owen hurt, it ought to be...
6' The corner gets cleared. England make a couple of good attacks via their midfield. Lampard has another shot, and it's on goal, but Isaakson smothers it easily.
5' Sweden finally get some good possession, crossing the ball in to Larsson, but Carragher is there to clear for a corner.
3' Great shot! Lampard cracks one just outside the box which veerss left of the post. Good chance. Meanwhile, we see a shot of Owen in severe pain, being stretchered out. My bad on the injury, he wasn't tackled, his knee just buckled badly. Crouch comes in for England.
2' And not two minutes in, a horrible-looking injury to Michael Owen on the left side. He got tackled awkwardly and his knee buckled very badly.
0' We're off! Sweden begin, giving the ball to England right away.
0' We finally go live, with crosses on flags. Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa are here to talk a lot.
0' No game, only ESPNews and lots of nervous-looking staff members trying to make sense of Mark Cuban getting another hefty fine. My man Jason has just joined me. I hand him the rosters for the game and he immediately notes how many Swedish names end in "-son". Finally we have an answer to the Polish scourge of player names ending in "-ski"!
CliffX (aka Brandon) is back! And we're looking forward to this one, a European match-up between England and Sweden, two of the world's more high-profile soccer nations. In an perfect world, this match is meaningless, as both sides would already have six points apiece and guaranteed progression to the knockout stages. In reality, Sweden still have yet to lock up advancement as a result of their draw to Trinidad and Tobago, and whomever takes second in this group must face Germany on Saturday. If you saw Germany humble Ecuador this morning, you know that neither side wants any part of the Germans. They did everything right, defending, perfectly timed runs, free kicks, long range attacks, you name it. Only Argentina looks more frightening right now. As a result, this game means much to the long-term prospects of both sides. Ecuador have played valiantly, but like T&T and Tunisia, their lack of stamina and pacing is now starting to show.
Here are the projected starting lineups for today's match, courtesy of worldsoccer.com:
D A. Cole
M OWEN HARGREAVES LOL
M J. Cole
A note about Hargreaves: if you're English and you see his name listed on the starting XI in a World Cup match, you're laughing and crying all at once. He's a bit of a punchline in his 'native' country (if my facts are right, he's Anglo-German and was born in Canada!), spending the vast majority of his club career at Bayern Munich and never making much of an impact whatsoever for the national team. Critics of Beckham complain about how overrated the England captain is, but as soon as Hargreaves goes on as a sub, they turn their attention elsewhere.
Anyways, coach Sven-Goran Eriksson named Hargreaves as a starter because of his concerns for the yellow-carded Steven Gerrard. That's also the reason why an underperforming Michael Owen is starting ahead of Peter Crouch. England only need a draw to retain the top seed in Group B, but if they're behind in the second half, you can bet the house we'll at least see Gerrard come on.
As a Celtic fan I have to love Henrik Larsson making his final world-scale appearance in this World Cup. He's a hero for Swedes and fake Irishmen everywhere. The big story, though, is the absence of the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic, suffering from groin injury. If you're into Juventus football you know Zlatan's a monster, 6'5" with all the touch and agility in the world. Former Aston Villa striker Marcus Allback will likely take his place, and he's sure to depend on the midfield for assistance, especially from the marvellous Ljungberg.
Which brings up the inevitable question: who'd ya rather, Becks or Ljungberg? Come on, don't be shy. I'd go with Freddie.