Andriy Shevchenko's dream night shook Sweden wide awake from their slumber. Sportbladet called striker Zlatan Ibrahimović "a formidable one-man army", but while he scored in their 2-1 defeat against Ukraine, evidently he was not formidable enough to win the game alone.
On the eve of their Group D opener, Sweden coach Erik Hamrén spoke about the pressure that he is under as national coach: "I don't have any problems sleeping but I dream a lot, and when I do, I dream about winning," said Hamrén.
When I spoke to him after the Ukraine match, he had just been rudely awakened by a 35-year-old Shevchenko, who was seeing his own dream come true. "We'll mourn this result now, and then look ahead to the coming matches," said Hamrén who showed impressive patience in taking time to speak to both the Swedish and international media.
Hamrén felt that neither team managed to string together many minutes of free-flowing football, something the Sweden coach put down to nerves. Well, the nerves should be out of the way now, and after that shake from Ukraine, Hamrén and his men have no choice but to look ahead, but not necessarily to quit dreaming altogether.
That very same attitude, after all, is what got Sweden here, and though there were bumps along the way to the finals, Hamrén's team found the right balance between dreamy ambition and cussed determination when they needed too. That was never more in evidence when they followed up a defeat in Budapest with three straight wins, including a 3-2 over FIFA World Cup runners-up the Netherlands.
That October night was as epic a battle as the Råsunda crowd has ever seen. With Monday's defeat, and the draw between France and England, the Swedes find themselves in a hole. Will they be able to dig themselves out? To do it, a one-man army will not be enough, however formidable Ibrahimović is.
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