|Profiles - World Cup Teams - Sweden|
Dull but efficient Sweden are nobody's first choice as soccer's most spectacular
side - but neither are they anybody's choice to be humiliated in the World
The Swedes conceded just three goals and remained unbeaten on their way to the top spot in Europe's qualifying group four, and their strength at the back will be a much-needed asset after being drawn with England, Argentina and Nigeria.
Sven Goran Eriksson was impressed by his countrymen after their 1-1 draw with England at Old Trafford on November 10.
'Sweden's strength is that they are very disciplined and aggressive. They don't give you time to play or the space to play in. You can understand why they are in the World Cup,' he said.
And will understand again in the teams' Group F opener on June 7.
The Sweden team that won their qualifying group ahead of Turkey, Slovakia, Macedonia, Moldova and Azerbaijan are several notches better than the side that failed to reach the second round of the European Championship finals in summer 2000.
The disciplined defensive strength of Patrik Andersson, now with Barcelona after winning the European Cup with Bayern Munich in spring 2001, the relentlessly dynamic midfield work by the likes of Arsenal's Fredrik Ljungberg and the goal hunger of Celtic's Henrik Larsson and Heerenveen's Marcus Allback make Sweden tick.
Players, team officials and commentators also praise an indomitable team spirit, which has seen Sweden turn looming defeats or draws into victory on many occasions - most notably in their penultimate qualifier in Istanbul on September 5.
A goal down for most of the second half, Sweden staged a great fightback in one of soccer's most inhospitable venues for visiting teams to score twice in the last four minutes for a 2-1 win which guaranteed them first place in the group at Turkey's expense.
'It is too good to be true. This team never gives up,' Larsson, European club soccer's top scorer in 2000 who equalised in the 87th minute, said after the match.
Coach duo Tommy Soderberg and Lars Lagerback have earned a lot of credit for instilling confidence and building morale among their players, who got off to a shaky start in the qualifiers in autumn 2000 but shone in 2001.
Including friendly training matches, Sweden have won 11 of their last 12 internationals since mid-February and tend to play well against free-wheeling opponents such as England while teams such as Italy, Argentina, France and Cameroon give them a much harder time.
Sweden will be making their 10th appearance in the finals and their first since 1994, when they surprised everyone by coming third - their best showing since reaching the World Cup final at home in 1958.
Sweden are unlikely to match that performance - when they were beaten by Brazil in the final in Stockholm - but do look strong enough to give a very good account of themselves.