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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 18:55 GMT 19:55 UK
Sweden's secret weapon
Anders Svensson shows England's Nicky Butt a clean pair of heels
Svensson skips past England's Nicky Butt

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Sweden's secret weapon does not have a red streak in his hair and he does not poke his tongue out when he scores.

But Anders Svensson may yet prove to be as well known a name as Sweden's better-known football exports, Freddie Ljungberg and Henrik Larsson.

If he does, then it could prove bad news for England.

As the World Cup clock ticks down, all the talk in assessing England's group opponents Sweden centres around Arsenal's mercurial midfielder, and Celtic's predatory goalscorer.

They, along with Barcelona's Patrik Andersson, possibly rank as Sweden's only world-class players.

Otherwise, the individual members of the Swedish squad display profiles as low as a Stealth bomber on a radar screen.

Henrik Larsson's tongue is on display when he scores
Larsson's tongue is his trademark

Players such as Ajax striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Heerenveen striker Markus Allback are attracting attention as they emerge in the run-up to the finals.

But even the Swedes who operate in the goldfish bowl that is the Premiership, are household names in their own households only.

If Aston Villa central defender Olaf Mellberg's reputation as a rugged, uncompromising central defender does not extend far beyond the West Midlands, then Svensson is almost anonymous outside of Hampshire.

The Swedish midfielder did not exactly arrive in a fanfare of trumpets.

But his capture from Swedish club Elfsborg by former Saints' boss Stuart Gray could prove to be one of the bargains of the season.

Despite a reputation as a technically-gifted player, Svensson cost Southampton just 750,000.

Open Quote
I know I can and should score more goals
Close Quote
Anders Svensson

Gray was initially keen to use Svensson to plug the gap on the left-hand side of Southampton's midfield.

But it was a role that never suited the Swede.

Gray's dismissal brought in Gordon Strachan, who saw Svensson as a different type of player.

He hauled Svensson inside from the flank, and decided to have him operating behind the front men.

It is a role that utilises Svensson's close dribbling skills, allowing him to collect the ball and commit defenders.

Svensson can also put his short game to use as a player with a good eye for a passing angle.

Southampton's revival under Strachan coincides with Svensson being used in a role where he can have more influence on events.

Open Quote
The draw with England at Old Trafford will mean nothing. We will both start afresh in Japan
Close Quote
Anders Svensson

Like most foreign imports, Svensson admits that it took him a while to get used to the pace of the Premiership.

He said: "I have now picked up the pace and physical demands of playing in English football."

The vital component missing from Svensson's game at the moment is a decent contribution of goals.

A haul of six goals from his 21 appearances for Sweden suggests a good goalscoring ratio but Svensson has only found the net three times in the Premiership for the Saints this season.

He believes he can do better.

"I scored a lot of goals in Sweden and need to start doing the same for Southampton.

Freddie Ljungberg has Sweden's most famous head of red hair since ABBA's Anna-Frid
Sweden's most famous redhead since ABBA's Anni-Frid

"I know I can, and should score more."

Sweden made stately progress to the World Cup finals, qualifying from their group with an ease which suggessts they can be a menace to the hopes of their countryman, Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Svensson played a key role in Sweden's qualification and should be a key part of his country's squad.

The draw pits him against players he faces week-in, week-out in the Premiership.

But he refuses to draw any conclusions from either his close contact with potential foes or Sweden's frielndly against England earlier in the season.

"That draw at Old Trafford will mean nothing. We will both start afresh in Japan," said Svensson.

"We are in a tough group where nobody can be sure of going through.

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

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SWEDEN 3 +1 5
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ARGENTINA 3 0 4
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