Sweden, without a win from their opening two UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifiers, received a boost to their morale as a team consisting of players mainly from the domestic league beat off the challenge of hosts Thailand, Qatar and the Korean Republic to lift the King's Cup last weekend.
Despite struggling with the heat and humidity, Sweden dominated their opening encounter against Qatar, winning 3-2 thanks to two goals from Djurgården IF's Johan Elmander and another from Malmö FFs Niklas Skoog.
Skoog was the only player retained for the second game against the Korean Republic, and he got Sweden's only goal. Pak Young Chol struck eight minutes from time to secure a draw for the Koreans.
Coach Lars Lagerbäck was keen to stress how tough the conditions had been. He said: "The game was a lot like our first one. We got off to a good start, but after a while the players got very tired. The weather is a problem, and the players are not fit to play a full 90 minutes yet."
Sweden needed a draw in their final game against Thailand to progress to the final, but cut loose in the second half to win comfortably. Having taken the lead through an own goal, further strikes from Alexander Farnerud, Elmander and Danijel Majestrovic sealed a 4-1 victory. "They're a good side," said Thailand coach Peter Withe. "They play physical football and are tactically skilful."
Sweden saved their best performance for the final on Saturday and, clearly more comfortable in the heat, hammered their Korean opponents 4-0, thanks to a double from Skoog and goals from Tobias Grahn and Örgryte's Markus Johanesson.
Coach Tommy Söderberg, whose side's next EURO 2004™ match is against Group 4 rivals Hungary on 2 April, was delighted with his side's performance. He said: "We told ourselves to keep going throughout the whole tournament, and we did that. It feels great and these young boys have done very well both on and off the pitch.
Lot of talent
"We've got a lot of talented players in Sweden, and together we can see to it that these youngsters will be as successful in the national side as Tobias Linderoth, Anders Svensson and Michael Svensson. Niklas Skoog is a proven goalscorer and they are, of course, important. Markus Johanesson, Mikael Nilsson and Andreas Isaksson have also played very solidly and showed what they are capable of."
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