Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Sweden boosted by Guidetti and Ibra displays

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By Phil O’Connor

Under normal circumstances Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s dipping first-half free kick in AC Milan’s 3-0 win over Cagliari on Sunday would have been enough to give Sweden coach Erik Hamren a pleasant end to the weekend.

But if Hamren had been watching Feyenoord beat Ajax in in Holland’s Eredivisie on Saturday he would have seen another Swede, John Guidetti, net a hat-trick as Feyenoord won 4-2, giving him a mouthwatering selection problem ahead of Euro 2012.

On loan from Manchester City, Guidetti is widely considered to be one of Sweden’s most promising talents in the post-Zlatan generation, but until his move to Rotterdam he hadn’t done much at the top level of the game.

Starved of opportunities at mega-rich Manchester City, he had a successful spell on loan back in Sweden with Brommapojkarna and a short stay at Burnley. These two stints have given a glimpse of his precocious talent, but it is in Holland that he is finally starting to deliver.

Swedish football family suffering Christmas unrest

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By Philip O’Connor, Scandinavia sports correspondent

Sweden’s soccer year officially came to an end last week with Wednesday’s traditional press conference and Christmas lunch at the football association’s Rasunda headquarters.

The normally sedate affair was given extra spice by Alexander Gerndt’s conviction the previous day for domestic violence and the FA’s reaction to it.

Both teams got the Euro 2012 playoff draw they wanted

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By Philip O’Connor in Stockholm

It wasn’t just Irish eyes that were smiling when the Euro 2012 playoff draw was made in Polish city of Krakow – some of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) delegation appeared to be laughing out loud when they were drawn to face Estonia, with the winner heading to next year’s finals.

But despite the protestations of coach Tarmo Ruutli, Ireland probably represents the best possible draw for the Estonians, given that the other alternatives were Portugal, Croatia or the Czech Republic.

Euro 2012 playoffs renew recent rivalries

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 By Zoran Milosavljevic

The Euro 2012 two-legged playoffs should offer plenty of action and eight entertaining matches, with the last four berths in next year’s finals up for grabs.

While Ireland will start as strong favourites against Estonia, the other three ties appear set to be nerve-jangling affairs in which two former Yugoslav repubics will be eager to avenge painful defeats against their respective opponents, while another is aiming to make history in only their second tournament as an independent nation.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Swedes show Dutch courage

By Philip O'Connor

Sweden’s 3-2 victory over the Netherlands to qualify for Euro 2012 may have surprised many observers, but Swedish footballers have a long history of success against Dutch opposition.

The home of "Total Football" has for many years been something of a finishing school for Swedish footballers, and five of the players in the victorious Sweden squad play their club football in the Netherlands.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Spreading out internationals makes sense

UEFA's plan to spread out fixtures during international weeks makes perfect sense and should bring an end to those strange weekends during the season with no top class soccer, when I find myself watching rubbish old B-movies and darts.

The idea would see a national team play on Thursday for example and then Sunday, or Friday and Tuesday like now or Saturday and Tuesday.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Thursday

SOCCER-CHAMPIONSGareth Bale. The dashing Welsh winger primed to scare the living daylights out of England on Saturday. Injured. Did anyone else hear that collective sigh of relief from England fans today?

But what about Tottenham Hotspur fans. Are you worried your star man’s recent struggles with injury could hamper your club’s Champions League quarter-final chances against Real Madrid?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Wednesday

SOCCER-EURO/Happy middle of the week to you all, and if like me you are in London where the sun is out and there is very little football to write about, you are forgiven for thinking the season is over and the grasscourt tennis season is about to kick in.

Don't look so worried, David (right). While the weather will probably change before I’ve finished writing this blog, the good news is it’s only March and there is plenty more football left. It's just this week it’s the international break.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Prandelli breaks the mould by naming his teams a day early

SOCCER-EURO/In rugby, teams are often named several days before matches -- a habit I've never really understood.

If there is any doubt about what lineup you will field, surely it makes sense to keep the opposition coach guessing until the final moment? The advantage may be slight, but it's there and it might make the other coach mess up his preparations if he guesses wrongly.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Euro 2012 qualifiers – live

We're following all tonight's Euro 2012 qualifiers live. Join us here for updates, comments and pix ... and details of all the goals as they go in.

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