Friday 06 July 2018, 16:10

Sweden's special relationship with England

  • Sweden's appreciation of English game goes several decades

  • Janne Andersson speaks about his long-time admiration of English football

  • Match preview: Sweden v England

By Alexandra Jonson with Sweden

When Sweden go out to play England in the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup™ on Saturday it will be a special match for the Swedes. Firstly, because it will be the first time in 24 years that they have reached this stage of the tournament. But also because of who their opponent is.

In Sweden there is a special relationship to English football that goes back over 50 years. In 1967, Swedish reporter Lars Gunnar-Bjorklund went to England to do a story about fox hunting, but as all hunting got cancelled, he instead went to watch Tottenham Hotspur play Chelsea.

Upon returning back to Sweden, Bjorklund realised that English football could be the perfect entertainment to broadcast on long winter evenings, when the Swedish football league was on a break. As a result, a programme called Tipsextra was created. One of many who followed it was Sweden head coach Janne Andersson.

“I grew up in the 70s with Tipsextra," Andersson said. "At that time it was only one televised match a week and it was on Saturday afternoons and from the English League. Already on the Monday you started to speculate what match it would be and on Tuesday or Wednesday you got to know, then you just looked forward to Saturday.”

The programme made Swedes fall in love with English football and Andersson was no different. “I’ve always been a big fan of English football. I remember Ken Hibbitts's long-range shot for Wolves in the beginning of the 1970s with the orange ball on muddy pitches; it’s what I grew up with. England has become a second country for me, so it’s especially exciting to get to play against England as head coach. It will be fun."

Everton v Manchester United - Victor Lindelof of Manchester United in action

Swedes plying their trade in England The strong relationship to English football in Sweden has only grown since and it has also come to influence Swedish football in many ways. The dream for many young Swedish footballers is to make it to the English Premier League, and the football in Sweden has been influenced by the English game in several ways.

Many Swedish players have also made the journey to England, and often at a young age. Sweden’s captain Andreas Granqvist signed for Wigan when he was 21. Sebastian Larsson, who has spent 17 years of his career in England, first came to Arsenal when he was 16 and John Guidetti was also only 16 when he arrived at Manchester City, to name just a few.

In the current Swedish squad five players played their football in the English league system last season: Victor Lindelof (pictured above, Manchester United), Martin Olsson (Swansea City), Sebastian Larsson (Hull City), Pontus Jansson (Leeds United) and Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Swansea).

“It was a long time ago since I played in England," Granqvist told FIFA. "But their mentality, they run and fight a lot. Their players have a lot of good qualities. So if we are to have any chance to win tomorrow, we need a max-performance."

Larsson put all the pressure on his second home country. “England has their own demons to fight and the pressure is on them. I think it would be a major fiasco for them if they were to be knocked out by Sweden."