Football

Gerrard fit to win 100th cap vs. Sweden

Gerrard is set to be the sixth Englishman to win his 100th cap.

STOCKHOLM: England captain Steven Gerrard has been passed fit for Wednesday’s friendly against Sweden after a scan on his knee and is set to become the sixth Englishman to win 100 caps.

Gerrard took a knock during Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge Sunday but the English Football Association said the midfielder would travel.

“Steven Gerrard has been cleared to travel with the England squad to Sweden having undergone a precautionary scan Monday afternoon,” the FA said on their website (www.thefa.com).

The news will come as a relief to manager Roy Hodgson, whose squad has been depleted by the withdrawals of five players including Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott.

Gerrard’s 17-year-old Liverpool teammate Raheem Sterling could win his first cap, as could Everton’s Leon Osman, 31.

Osman, who played for England as a schoolboy, was a surprise inclusion in the squad, but told reporters while he was looking forward to winning his first cap he was delighted his old rival Gerrard was about to join the century club.

“It’s fantastic, there’s only a select band that has managed to do it and he certainly deserves to be in that crew. He is a fantastic player and leader of men.

“I think we first played against each other when we were about 12 or 13 years of age on Merseyside and to now see him get his 100th cap is fantastic, but not surprising.”

The only other men to play 100 times for England are Peter Shilton (125), David Beckham (115), Bobby Moore (108), Bobby Charlton (106) and Billy Wright (105).

England ended a 43-year jinx, one of the longest in international football, when they beat Sweden 1-0 in a friendly at Wembley a year ago before following that up with a thrilling 3-2 win at Euro 2012.

Sweden though are often a hard nut to crack as Germany found a month ago when Erik Hamren’s team came back from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in a World Cup qualifier in Berlin.

Seemingly dead and buried, Sweden replied with goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mikael Lustig, Johan Elmander and Rasmus Elm in stoppage time to force an incredible draw.

With PSV Eindhoven forward Ola Toivonen injured, Hamren has called up Malmo duo Pontus Jansson and Jiloan Hamad to give the Swedish squad a youthful look.

“I see quality, I see attitude, I see the future,” Hamren told a media briefing in Stockholm as he announced his squad, adding that his side lacked experience. “It’s a bit messy here at the moment. We have a few injuries and those that play in Europe aren’t getting much playing time.”

For all the tussles between England and Sweden over the years, few nations share such mutual respect.

England manager Hodgson is still held in high esteem in the Scandinavian country where he had spells coaching Halmstad, Oddevold, Orebro and most successfully Malmo where a section of the ground there is still known as “Roy’s corner.”

Together with fellow Englishman Bob Houghton they helped transform the Swedish game in the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s, ushering in a period of unprecedented success for Swedish clubs.

With almost blanket coverage of England’s Premier League on Swedish television, supporters travel in their droves to English cities to watch Premier League clubs in action.

With so many Swedes playing in England in recent years, the games almost have a derby feel to them.

Apart from a penalty shootout defeat to Italy in the Euros, Hodgson is unbeaten in his opening 11 matches with England and, like Hamren, is also developing his side with an eye on the World Cup in under two years time.

Calling in some young inexperienced players like Raheem and 20-year-old Wilfried Zaha of Championship leaders Crystal Palace proves he is prepared to give youth their chance, making for what could be a highly entertaining match.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 14, 2012, on page 14.

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