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Sweden national football team at the 2006 Football World Cup

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By user Bobo

Sweden have had one of the better records in World Cup football, having reached the Quarter-finals of the first competition in which they participated, in 1934. They steadily got better until 1950, when they won a third-fourth place playoff in order to finish in third place, before failing to qualify for the 1954 competition.

Back then, only three teams occupied each group (the Great British nations apart), and even teams such as the Saarland took part in competition. Despite succumbing at the hand of the Belgians before getting a look in at the finals, they returned in their home World Cup of 1958 to finish as runners-up.

They continued to play Wales in the group stages, beat the USSR (twice victors against England in the group stages, courtesy of a tied-teams play-off victory in Gothenburg), before beating West Germany in the semi-finals.

The final will go down in history as being that which belonged to Pelé. And there's frankly little more that can be said about this footballing genius which has not been said already, so I won't.

Nearly fifty years later, Sweden had to rely this time on the lucky loser slot after getting an identical record to Croatia in the group stages, and finished second (despite having better goal difference), due to Croatia's better record against them.

Now they occupy Group B. Which is the same group containing England, Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago. It's probably safe to say that barring any France-Senegal style upsets, England and Sweden will qualify from this group, it's merely a case of turning out the performances on the pitch. Beyond that? There's every chance whoever wins Group B could be playing either Germany or Poland, and at the moment that's not one I'd like to call.

Sweden's current superstars include captain Olof Mellberg, who plays for Aston Villa, and the ever-present superscorer Henrik Larsson.

There's every chance, however, that given the contentious nature of that group, they could go a long way, and given the possibility of facing Germany or Poland, it's something more of a game of chicken for the team who wins the day.


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