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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Sweden's secret weapon strikes

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As Argentina head back to Buenos Aries with their World Cup dreams in shreds, it will be no consolation that BBC Sport Online gave them fair warning.

Back in December 2001, we warned the world that Sweden possessed a potent secret weapon.

While the eyes of the world were focused on Sweden's stars such as Freddie Ljungberg and Henrik Larsson, our astute glance identified a player who could be their most effective.

But now the wraps are off, and the world knows how deadly Anders Svensson can be.

With Freddie Ljungberg injured, Sweden needed somebody to step up to the plate against Argentina.

Open Quote
Everybody assumes that Argentina will top the group with England finishing second, but who is to say that we won't finish top?
Close Quote
Anders Svensson's pre-tournament forecast

Lars Lagerback and Tommy Soderberg gave rein to Svensson, and the Southampton midfielder repaid them in spectacular fashion.

Svensson has grown as the tournament has progressed.

He transformed Sweden and swung the game when coming on as a substitute in the opening game against England.

He then played a pivotal role as Sweden came from behind to beat Nigeria in their second match.

And in Ljungberg's absence, Svensson was Sweden's midfield inspiration against Argentina.

His sweetly-struck free-kick was the icing on the cake of a solid performance which marked him out as the pick of Sweden's midfield players.

Svensson's immaculate short game, and his willingness to carry the ball from deep enabled Sweden to keep the ball at vital times when Argentina were pressing.

Who would have thought that Sweden would emerge from the World Cup's Group of Death topping the pile?

Well, Svensson, for a start.

His pre-tournament words have proved prophetic, at least for Argentina.

Before the World Cup, Svensson told BBC Sport Online: "Everybody assumes that Argentina will top the group with England finishing second.

"But this is such a tough group that who is to say that we won't finish top, with Nigeria second?"

"On our day, Sweden can beat anyone. We were unbeaten in qualifying, so who knows how far we can go?"

Svensson will not complain that his prediction was only half right.

Open Quote
It was incredible facing probably the best team I have ever played against
Close Quote
Anders Svensson

Sweden's goalscoring hero against Argentina also proved his prophetic powers in his pre-tournament assessment of Sweden's strength.

In the Swedish squad, perhaps only Ljungberg, Celtic's Henrik Larsson and Barcelona defender Patrik Andersson can wear the mantle of world-class players,

But Svensson's assessment was spot-on when he said: "Our strength is in our team spirit.

"We are a group of players who all work hard for each other."

But despite these bold words before the tournament, fast forward to June 2002 and Svensson admits the success against Argentina took him by surprise.

"It was incredible facing probably the best team I have ever played against," he said.

"To come up with a draw and top the group is fantastic."

Now Sweden face Senegal, with confidence they can match the performance of the 1994 squad which reached the semi-finals.

"Every team left in the tournament is a good one," Svensson said, "and every game is going to be tough.

"I'm just happy we won the group and are through to the next round."

The only problem for Sweden is that now their secret weapon has been revealed, they will not be able to keep him under wraps.


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ARGENTINA 3 0 4
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