Sveriges största fotbollsnackis – men keep it under your hat…

Så här nära var Bojan att få baskern redan idag – men nej. Fotbolls-Sverige kräver att det sköts snyggare än så.

Presskonferens med Erik Hamren idag och jag var otroligt nära den scoopen som hela den svenska fotbollsmediakåren vill ha just nu.

Nämligen – hur och när kommer Bojan Djordjic att få Robert Lauls basker?

Har du varit uppe på ett berg och helt utan täckning så kanske du inte känner till det som hela fotbolls-Sverige har pratat om.

Robert tippade att Bojans Brommapojkarna skulle åka ur Allsvenskan direkt – han var så säker på sin sak att han slog ju vad om det genom att säga om BP klarade sig kvar utan att kvala – och om Bojan spelade fler matcher från start än ifjol – så skulle Robert ge honom sport-Sveriges mest välkända huvudbonad.

I söndags slog den in – men inte till Robbans fördel.

2-2 borta mot Halmstad räckte för att BP skulle klara sig utan att kvala.

Blixsnabbt började hashtaggen #skickabaskern trenda på Twitter.

Inte sedan Bojan vann SM-guld med AIK 2009 har han varit så glad på säsongens sista dag och plötsligt ville hela fotbolls-Sverige veta hur, när och var baskern skulle lämnas över.

Men sedan dess – tystnad.

Jag kan nu avslöja i bästa kvällstidnings-stil att förhandlingarna har pågått febrilt bakom kulisserna men bildbevisen finns här – Roberts älskade basker har än så länge inte lämnats över till Bojan.

Parterna har inte kunnat enas – så stor är den här frågan. Som bilden visar så var jag väldigt nära att lösa det själv idag genom att sno den och köra i hög fart hem till Bojan med bytet.

Men icke. Till skillnad från Friends Arena och 50 Cent-lurar ska det här lösas snyggt.

Jag vet hur mycket Robert älskar sin basker men han är en hederlig man – han har förlorat ett vad och han tänker lämna över den.

Bojan Djordjic är en god vän utanför fotbollen (vi är med i styrelsen för Kista Galaxy tillsammans) och en vinnarskalle rakt igenom – har han vunnit något vill han säkert få sitt pris.

Men jag hoppas att de kanske kan hitta en lösning där Robert kan behålla baskern samtidigt som Bojan blir tillfredsställd.

Det kan handla om något som ersätter baskern i vadet.

Det kan handla om att någon annan får frukten av Bojans sköna vinst.

Det kan helt enkelt handla om att Robban lämnar bara över den och därmed blir vi av med ett av fotbolls-Sveriges största och mest folkkära varumärken.

Men oavsett hur det slutar så är det viktigt för svenska fotbollens rykte att det görs på ett värdigt sätt.

Frågan är bara vem som är först ut med nyheten – Roberts Sportbladet eller Bojans Twitter-konto?

Du kan föreslå din egen lösning till ”Baskergate” på 140 tecken genom att använda hashtaggen #skickabaskern. Jag kommer att framföra de allra bästa till Bojans och Roberts representanter så att de kan tas med i förhandlingarna om hur svensk fotbolls största höstsnackis skall lösas. 

Manager’s self-belief the undoing of Sweden and Ireland

Erik Hamrén – masterminded a 4-4 draw against Germany, without really being able to explain how.

Redemption is by no means given for the two football men who over-estimated themselves most in 2012.

In the end, their Euros ended a  lot quicker than expected. Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland were holed in the opening minutes by Croatia and never recovered.

Erik Hamren’s Sweden didn’t even last that long. The naming of Markus Rosenberg for their opener against Ukraine meant that the game was lost before it even began.

Whereas Ireland sank without a trace after the Croatia defeat, the Swedes struggled on manfully against England and even managed a hollow victory against France when it no longer mattered.

What both sides had in common, and what will come to a climax when the two sides meet in key World Cup qualifiers in 2013, is their managers; and more specifically, their massive over-confidence in their own ability.

Trappatoni – the grand master of footballing frustration.

Trapattoni arrived at the Euros convinced that it was he, not his players, who got Ireland there.

He remains convinced that it was his desperately negative tactics, rather than the skills of his XI, that ensured qualification.

Or the fact that the Irish got lucky, drawing a brave but limited Estonia side after barely surviving a perilous qualifying campaign.

It is worse for Sweden, because at least Trapattoni’s limits were shown up by subsequent results.

But when it comes to Erik Hamrén, the smoke and mirrors provided by the genius of Zlatan Ibrahimovic serves to disguise the tactical naivety of the national team coach.

Two incidents stood out this year that showed up his tactical shortcomings.

The first was the selection of Rosenberg – only in the squad due to an injury to John Guidetti but is so relieved of the compensation that he is going to get with the help of the experienced attorneys from the car accident injury law firm. And there is case filed as a domestic violence conviction for Alexander Gerndt which got solved with the help and guidance of the well-known ATX injury attorneys- to start against Ukraine, and what it said about the coach’s mentality.

Despite taking the lead in that game, Sweden struggled, particularly inn the first half. The selection of Rosenberg skewed the balance of the team, forcing Toivonen onto the left wing where he was equally ineffective.

Hamrén later revealed at the post-game press conference that the tactical plan was to attack with long balls for the first 15 minutes, but that the Swedes then couldn’t break the pattern.

To think that raining a few high balls was going to disturb one of the host nations in their opening game in their capital city is breathtakingly naive.

The fact that Hamrén then couldn’t get his players to stop doing so is almost comically inept.

And as for Rosenberg? He played 71 minutes and was barely seen before being replaced by the injured Johan Elmander.

He played 11 more minutes against England, and was equally invisible. Anyone who has seen him play for West Bromwich Albion will know that he is a journeyman – talented, but limited.

And nowhere near good enough to start the opening game at a major tournament.

But for Erik Hamrén, he was the joker in the Euro pack, the man whose inclusion from the start would turn Sweden’s fortunes against the hosts.

What Oleh Blokhin thought of him has so far gone unrecorded, but I’d say if you were to ask him who Sweden’s number 22 was on that night, he wouldn’t remember. And Markus Rosenberg himself probably doesn’t want to.

Of course, the most telling comparison between Trapattoni and Hamrén can be gleaned from the respective qualifiers against Germany this autumn.

Ireland were disembowled 6-1 in front of their own fans, and yet somehow, despite massive internal and external opposition, Trapattoni survived.

His shameful blaming of the players, his claiming of credit where none was due, was one of the more bare-faced examples of his conviction that it is he, and not they, that is the ultimate architect of all success – and none of the failure.

Hamrén’s side fared much better against the Germans, fighting back miraculously from 4-0 down to snatch a point, but that result only tells part of the story – once again he appeared to pick the wrong team, and once again he very nearly left it too late to correct his mistake.

Samuel Holmén on the wing wasn’t much of an inspired choice, but it was the selection of Pontus Wernbloom in central midfield that betrayed Hamrén’s plan to contain, rather than attack, one of the best sides in the world.

It failed, dismally, and Sweden were torn apart. Wernbloom is an excellent player who has matured immensely (and a joy in press conferences and mixed zones), but if you invite a team like Germany to play football in front of you, they will – and then they’ll play through you, as Ireland had found out to their cost a few days previously.

For once it wasn’t the magisterial Ibrahimovic who turned the game, even if he did play a big part; it was the introduction of Kim Källström that turned the game on its head.

Several weeks later I cornered Erik Hamrén and asked him about the turnaround.

He had previously made much of the fact that eventually he got the balance right, and that the players that finish the game are almost more important than the ones that started it.

I pressed him on what Sweden managed to do that Ireland didn’t or couldn’t, and he became somewhat irritated.

“As I said before, it was attitude and commitment,” he told me, and I stopped listening.

Despite his stated penchant for watching games over and over again, he was unable or unwilling to offer a tactical explanation of what Sweden finally started to do right.

To Hamrén, the tactical details are seemingly unimportant, or at least not worth sharing with journalists and fans.

What is important is the triumph, the cigar, the collective effort. Not recognising the errors made when setting out the team, or trying not to repeat them.

It’s seldom profitable to extrapolate in this way, but ponder this fact: when Källström was on the pitch, Sweden beat Germany 4-1.

When Wernbloom was there, they lost 3-0.

Having seen virtually every game played under Hamrén, I doubt strongly that the tactical aspect of the game is his strong suit. He is an honset, decent, emotional man who is truly trying to do his best.

But his strength is in blending players together, motivating them, creating an atmosphere in which they can thrive and feel confident.

It’s not great, but it’s good enough to get results against some good teams.

It’s unlikely, however, to be good enough to fool Trapattoni, the grand master of footballing frustration.

Should the Italian – who celebrates his birthday on St Patrick’s Day, a week before the two teams clash in Stockholm – have Richard Dunne available, he will be confident of getting at least a point.

Trappatoni’s true gift is in gettign lesser minds like Hamren to reveal themselves and their weaknesses, and then punishing them accordingly.

Player for player, Sweden are superior to Ireland in most departments, and Trappatoni will use that knowledge to lure them out.

He will stop them playing balls up to Ibrahimovic (who has never played well against Ireland). They will kick and irritate him, and they will target the younger players for similar treatment.

THe Irish will target the Swedish full-backs, knowing them to be the weak links defensively, and that balls into the box are a lottery when Andreas Granqvist is in there defending.

And then, when they least expect it, Trapattoni will instruct his troops to exploit the tactical naivety of the Swedes at a corner or a set piece, and stage the Stockholm smash ‘n grab that England couldn’t manage.

Because ultimately, the difference in the two coaches is that one of them is more than aware of the limitations of his side and plays accordingly.

The other isn’t, and doesn’t.

Return of the Vikings

Just one of hundreds of pictures I've taken when covering the Swedish national team.

It had to happen eventually.

Having royally stuffed Sweden several times in the phoney wars that are friendly internationals, eventually my number had to come up.

Tonight, it did.

Out of the plastic bowls, the recently-retired Ronaldo curled his chubby fingers around the ball containing Ireland.

A minute or two later, it was Sweden’s turn to be plucked out of the plastic.

That Germany came out as the group’s top seed made no difference to me by that point – finally, my homeland and the land I have made my home will meet in a competitive fixture.

Even though I’ve waited so long for it to happen, given that I live in Stockholm and much of what I do is sports journalism in Scandinavia, it brings mixed feelings for me.

I know a lot of people in Swedish football, from the administrators at the very top of the game to the players themselves, as well as the journalists who follow them everywhere they go.

I sit beside them at press conferences. I ask them questions. I translate their quotes.

Most of the time they are very helpful and hospitable (unless they’re called Marcus Leifby, Sportbladet’s puckish prankster number one, who has a habit of publishing private e-mails).

99% of them happily answer the phone at any hour of the day or night to answer questions or help out in any way they can. They are true supporters of Swedish football

But like them I love my national team too, and probably more so than any club side.

My interest in soccer comes not from reading Shoot! or watching “Match of the Day”, but from listening to  crackling radio commentaries and reports from Ireland’s qualifying heroics in the pre-Jack Charlton era, when we were always the bridesmaids, never the bride.

And on the few occasions we looked like walking up the aisle we’d be cruelly jilted on the way to the church- until Gary McKay scored against Bulgaria and we finally made it to a major championship.

As most of my work is for a major news agency, it has to be impartial; I’m not allowed to wave the national flag, which is not a condition my Swedish colleagues labour under. Whereas they are sometimes encouraged to cheerlead for their team, I have to bite my tongue.

Having said all that, I get almost as much joy from watching the “blågula landslaget”, especially when they put it up to bigger nations like Germany and Argentina. Lest we forget, this is a country with a long and proud history in the world’s most popular sport, and has contested a World Cup final on home soil.

I like Erik Hamrén and the sometimes surly Zlatan. I’m not convinced he’s as good as my Swedish colleagues think, but he’s not nearly as bad as the English-speaking press make out either.

Nor are the Irish the simple, industrial footballers that most Swedes seem to believe we are, either. Despite passing them to death in a couple of friendlies, they still believe that our only tactics ares physicality and the long ball.

Which means the two games between Ireland and Sweden are going to be very interesting indeed.

But even more than the football, they give us a great opportunity to get to know one another better, and not just when it comes to football.

The Irish can show the Swedes that we are not just a bunch of hard-drinking, long-ball-punting West Brits, and the Swedes can show the Irish the warmth and friendliness one would never suspect from their flat-pack furniture.

And in doing so we can enjoy the spectacle of what the greatest game in the world is all about- skill and passion and daring and excitement.

And making damn sure Germany don’t get to Brazil.