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Saturday 2nd June 2018 ko 19.45

International Friendly



Att 41,558 at Friends Arena, Solna

Entry 100 sek (approx £8.62)

Programme 20 sek*

When I was putting this year’s trip to Sweden together this fixture was an obvious one to consider. The time of arrival for Robyn, Sim, Adrian and I had been set in stone, and once Swedish Groundhop organiser Kim Hedwall offered to hire a car and collect us from the airport and drive us from there to Kristinebergs IP then to our hotel, and finally to Solna the cards rather fell into place. 

On one had Sim and I had already visited the Friends Arena, but Robyn and Adrian hadn’t. It made a long day still longer, we’d all been up since 2am Swedish time, but Kim rather made our minds up for us. At a tenner a ticket I’d been massively overthinking the whole idea!

We ended up having an evening meal at the Max burger chain, adjacent to Solna Centrum tram stop. The irony of that place is that the line opened in 2013, a year after the former national stadium, the Råsunda Stadium closed. The stop is 50 yards from the southern end of where the ground used to be, and the northern end of the tram line at Solna station is still a 10 minute walk from the new National Stadium, sponsored by Swedbank who chose to name it after an anti-bullying charity it supports.

Once there, access was as easy as you’d expect from a modern stadium, although the stadium is now cashless, you have to everything beyond the turnstiles by credit card or by Swish, a mobile phone payment App. The matchday programme could only be bought via Swish, and since none of the 5 of us had the App, if anyone could supply me with the magazine I’d be grateful!

Now the beauty of writing about a warm-up game for the World Cup after the World Cup, is I get the benefit of hindsight. The fact of the matter was that this game was lousy, neither side managed to create much and the Swedes failed to muster a single shot on target. That is so often the case in pre-World Cup friendlies, there isn’t any player who’d want to risk injury and so the game ends up being a poor spectacle.

Nevertheless I was surprised at how low-key this game was, it was a Scandanavian derby at after all!  The tickets discounted so anyone who wanted to go could, but even then the Danish support was minimal, perhaps they knew that the game would be a poor spectacle and so opted to forget the natural rivalry for this game.

When the 4 of us were sat on the tram heading back to our hotel our thinking was all the same. Sweden were well-drilled but lacked a creative talisman, a Larsson, a Brolin or of course the destroyer of England at the first ever game at the Friends Arena, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The idea that both sides would clear the group stages at that stage seemed fanciful to us. Of course the Danes made it to the 2nd Round, and we all know what happened when Sweden got to the quarter-finals!

Which of course was exactly the fixture I didn’t want. I accepted the likelihood that both England and Sweden would depart the World Cup before the final, I just didn’t want my home country to be the team that sent my friends home, or for that matter vice-versa!

England beat Sweden 2-0 and the elation of making the semi-finals was obvious to anyone Engliash. For me though elation was tinged with the regret of knocking out the country of so many of my friends. I’ll be buying beers for some of my Stockholm-based friends for sure, but in the end I suspect that Sweden were happy to have got as far as the did.

As this match proved, Sweden were supremely well organised at the competition in Russia but lacked that vital spark. Just like England I’m sure they were pleased at how far they got in the competition, and will treat that success as a springboard for the future. Just one thing though my Swedish friends… can we avoid each other in the future?