Scandinavian Spotlight: Three Times the Fun for Helsingborgs, Aalesund put out the Fire and International Derbies
Sweden's season ended last Saturday when Helsingborgs overcame Kalmar to complete the treble. Having won the Swedish Super Cup defeating Malmø 2-1 in the season's curtain-raiser, then sealed their seventh league title back in September they became the first side to complete a clean sweep of domestic silverware by dominating the Svenska Cupen final and running out 3-1 winners.
Although this is traditionally a low-key occasion, Helsingborgs players and fans alike were ecstatic at achieving such a first. After forcing a succession of corners they finally made the pressure count when Brazilian forward Alvaro Santos headed in to give them the lead. Erik Israelsson equalised from another header before the break, much against the run of play. Second half goals from Mahlangu and Andersson sealed the win as Helsingborgs dominated.
In direct contrast to its Swedish counterpart, the Norwegian Cup final felt more like its FA or Scottish Cup equivalents. Helsingborgs played in their own stadium in front of a far from sell-out crowd, but Aalesund and Brann played the final in Oslo's Ullevaal Stadium in front of packed stands and with plenty of pre and post-match TV coverage. It felt more like a 'real' cup final.
Brann started the match as favourites but rarely lived up to that billing. Aalesund took the lead in an eventful first half when Costa Rican midfield star Michael Barrantes saw his shot deflected into the net by centre back Lars Grorud in 19 minutes. Brann though did what they had to do to avoid losing sight of their opponents and equalised just a couple of minutes later when Hungarian defender Zsolt Korcsmar connected with a Bjørnar Holmvik corner to pull the Bergen side level. Barrantes rounded off the scoring with the game's defining moment when he fired in a swerving shot from 22 yards to finish the scoring.
In the second half there was plenty of end-to-end play to keep the fans excited but no further scoring. Brann pressed hard the more the game wore on but couldn't break down a resolute Aalesund defence and the underdogs held on to secure only their second ever trophy, having won the same competition in 2009. To cap a great day for Barrantes he was also named the man-of-the-match and deservedly so.
With no domestic top-level football this weekend we have international action to look forward to. Wales, of course, take on Norway tomorrow a couple of hours before England play host to European and World champions Spain, but from a Scandinavian point of view we should be treated to a cracker tonight as Sweden travel across the water to take on fellow Euro 2012 qualifiers Denmark in Copenhagen.
Both teams are on a high right now after their great results in the final round of qualifying games which saw them both get through to Polkraine automatically, and hopefully with no pressure other than the usual 'derby' rivalry, we can see some good open football played. There will be plenty of UK-based players on show as well with Nicklas Bendtner, Daniel Agger, Thomas Sørensen and Anders Lindegaard in Denmark's squad and Sweden calling up, amongst others, Martin Olsson, Jonas Olsson, Seb Larsson and Daniel Majstorovic.
Sweden travel to London the following Tuesday to take on England at Wembley and the British-based players will have an extra incentive to try and get a result against team-mates and rivals so Friday's game should be one to watch for England fans.
Denmark face another Nordic challenge in their midweek game when Finland come calling in a match which the Danes will be expected to win comfortably, but which may give them the opportunity to give some game time to some of the younger talent coming through. Manager Morten Olsen had earlier stated his intention to stand down from his post after the Euro 2012 finals but has changed his mind as he sees a bright future for his national side so for his sake let's hope they don't flop and he has that choice taken out of his hands.
Article by Iain Macfadzean