Swedish soccer: Allsvenskan News and Notes, Aug. 6
Yankee Doodle Dandies in Sweden. Örebro, defending champions AIK and Helsingborg are all making a run at the 2010 Allsvenskan title. European misadventures.
Yankee Doodle Dandies
The blue and yellow of Swedish football has a healthy dose of the ol’ red, white and blue this year as four Americans are playing in either the Allsvenskan or Superettan. The best of them, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, toils for Örebro where he is a starter for Sixten Boström. Bedoya, 22, is a New jersey native and was the last player cut from the U.S. World Cup team this summer. Halmstad has a pair of players in Michael Thomas and Ryan Miller. Both played briefly in Major League Soccer before moving to Sweden. Thomas, a striker, is currently on loan to Ljungskile. Miller, a forward, has seen limited playing although he is on the first team. At Ljungskile, Thomas is teammates with former West Virginia University goalkeeper Nick Noble. Ljungskile has an outside shot to grab the playoff spot for promotion to the Allsvenskan.
The folks running Örebro these days certainly appear serious about making a run at the 2010 Allsvenskan title. In addition to adding 20-year-old prodigy Astrit Ajdarevic from Liverpool, ÖSK signed Irish international defender Patrick Flood, Finnish Under-21 midfielder Denis Abdulahi and 25-year-old forward Henri Belle from Cameroon. Örebro also gave midfielder Roni Porokara enough of raise in a contract extension to keep the Finnish international at the club. The moves strengthened the team to the point it loaned out three players that saw an amount of time in the first half. The only player Örebro lost outright was Danish central defender Kim Olsen, who returned to the Danish League.
Örebro, however, isn’t the only side that loaded up for the stretch run. Defending champions AIK brought in almost an entirely new team in July, including a new coach. Scotsman Alex Miller now has the task of keeping AIK in the Allsvenskan as the reigning champions continue to hover in the relegation zone. To help in that job, Miller signed Croatian goalkeeper Ivan Turina, Croatian striker Goran Ljuboljevic, Sierra Leone striker Mohamed Bagura and forward Admir Catovic, a Swede playing for Superettan side Väsby United. In addition, AIK lured Norwegian international Helgi Danielsson away from Hansa Rostock in Germany and picked up Robert Ahman-Persson from Malmö. The new players replace a number of regulars who left the team during the World Cup, including Uruguyan midfielder Sebastian Eguren, who returned to Villareal in Spain and Bojan Djordic and Martin Matumba, both of whom signed with Videoton FC in Hungary.
League leaders Helsingborg also tweaked their lineup a bit, signing budding star Alexander Gerndt away from Gefle. Gerndt was the hot Swedish transfer commodity over the summer. Not to be outdone, second-place Malmö shored up its defense, signing Portuguese defender Yago Fernandez on a free transfer. Fernandez played for Espanyol in 2009.
Allsvenskan sides aren’t the only ones looking for reinforcement. Superettan leaders IFK Norrköping made their bid to return to the top flight by signing a trio of new players, including Bruno Santos, who led the team in scoring from 2003-07. Santos returned to Sweden after a disappointing stint in the French Second Division last year. Joining Santos is another Brazilian forward, Caio Mendes, who moved to the Norrköping "Peking" team from Marilia AC. Norrköping also picked up former Swedish international goalkeeper Abbas Hassan on loan from Elfsborg.
AIK, IFK Göteborg and Kalmar all crashed out of European competitions, as AIK lost Aug. 4 to Rosenborg in a Champions League qualifier while Goteborg and Kalmar lost their Europa League matches. Only Elfsborg managed to advance as it beat Macedonian side Teleks.
It must have seemed like a reunion in Trondheim where AIK met Rosenborg as former AIK goalkeeper Daniel Örlund and defender Micheal Lustig were in the starting lineup along with fellow Swedes Mikael Dorsin (formerly of Halmstad) and Rade Prica (formerly of Helsingborg). AIK went into the match needing to make up an away goal after losing 1-0 in the home leg. Rosenborg, however, scored three times in 21 minutes – Prica had a goal and an assist – as the Norwegian side added to the Gnaget’s nightmare 2010 season.
Despite the loss, AIK still has a shot at European play. The defending Swedish champs were one of 15 losing Champions Leagues team to move over the UEFA Europa League. AIK is in the final qualifying stage of the tournament before group play and faces Bulgarian Levski Sofia, the same team that knocked Kalmar out of the tournament.
IFK Göteborg was at home against AZ Alkmaar Aug. 5 looking to make for a 2-0 loss in Holland. Stefan Selakovic gave IFK some hope when he scored in the 67th minute, but Göteborg could not find the equalizer and bowed out despite claiming a 1-0 win.
Kalmar travelled to Sofia, Bulgaria to face Levski Aug. 5 following a 1-1 draw in Sweden. The Bulgarians raced out to a 3-0 lead when Kalmar suddenly decided to play. Tobias Eriksson and Daniel Mendes scored in a two-minute span starting in the 82nd minute and Kalmar pressed for more. A tying goal would have sent the Swedes through to the next round on the away goals rule, but it was not to be. With Kalmar sending everyone up front on offense, the Bulgarians were able to score twice in injury time to claim a 5-2 win and send the Swedes home.
The three losses meant it was up to Elfsborg to carry the banner of Swedish football in Europe and the Borås side rose to the occasion. After spotting the Macedonians a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute, rookie Elmin Kurbegovic scored at the 42-minute mark to the tie the game. The 1-1 score line assured Elfsborg of going through, thanks to its 5-0 win in the first leg in Sweden. Amadou Jawo made it a certainty when he tallied 11 minutes into the second half to give Elfsborg a 2-1 lead. Goalkeeper Ante Covic made it stand up and the Borås side advanced to the “play off” round of the Europa League. The playoff round is last of the home-and-home series before teams reach the group stage.
On Aug. 6, Elfsborg learned its opponent would be Italian club Napoli. The home-and-home series begins Aug. 19 in Naples before the return leg Aug. 26 in Borås.