Swede emotions for Groningen

After setting Sweden alight, scoring sensation Marcus Berg will hope to make an impact in the Eredivisie when he makes his FC Groningen debut tomorrow.

Torsby is a small town on the outskirts of nowhere. With a population of just 13,500, it would be in danger of falling off the map if it were not the home town of a certain Sven-Göran Eriksson. These days, however, Swedish kids have a whole new reason for knowing the name – the exploits of a young striker called Marcus Berg.

Bittersweet
Berg left Torsby along with his brother Jonathan to sign for IFK Göteborg in 2001. He was 16 then, now approaching 21 he has become the talk of Swedish football after firing IFK towards the Swedish title. Berg has taken the Allsvenskan by storm. He scored his 14th goal in 17 games on Saturday and left the field to a standing ovation after hitting IFK's third in a 5-0 rout of FF Kalmar. It was a bittersweet moment for Berg, who two days earlier had agreed terms on his first professional contract with FC Groningen after IFK had begrudgingly accepted an offer of €3.8m from Dutch club for their young star.

Rapid rise
Berg's rise has been rapid. He made his debut for IFK in April 2005 and showed why many expect great things of him last season when he struck four goals in 12 league games, earning a place in his country's Under-21 side in the process. It is since establishing himself as a regular with IFK this season, though, that he has truly flourished. "I'm not surprised by how many goals he has scored," the U21s coach Jörgen Lennartson told uefa.com.

'Potential'
"He has always shown potential and we knew that if he played regularly he would get the confidence to grow which is what has happened." Lennartson compares Berg to veteran international Marcus Allbäck calling him "a goalscorer but also a team player" and says he is impressed as much by his temperament as he is by his finishing. "He reads the game very well and is always in the right position in the penalty box. He has good technical skills and can score with both feet and his head, but he also knows he still has a lot learn."

'Next step'
To that end Lennartson believes Groningen, who will compete in the UEFA Cup this season, is an ideal destination for Berg, who at 1.84m, combines power and pace to devastating effect. "It's very important to go to a club where he continues to develop and where he can take the next step. Groningen are that kind of club. Going to a really top European club and sitting on the bench for one-and-a-half years would not be good for his development. The Dutch league is a very good league for developing players, so for us it's good if he goes to a Dutch club where he can play regularly."

Development
He is likely to make his Groningen debut in the season opener at NAC Breda on Saturday night but Berg will not have long to adjust to his new surroundings. He will return home for the U21 friendly with Wales on 21 August, and Lennartsson is confident he and joint coach Tommy Söderberg are well on their way to creating a side capable of mounting a serious challenge when Sweden stage the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 2009. "Preparations are going well," Lennartsson said. "We're building a new team for our home tournament so we're making changes from game to game to give lots of players the feeling they're part of our plans. We're working very much on development for the future rather than the result." With Berg in such fine form Sweden can look ahead with confidence.

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