He might just be the best football player in Scandinavia...nobody really knows.
That doesn’t bother Elfsborg goalkeeper Johan Wiland too much. He would happily trade fame for another Allsvenskan title.
“Records are great but I would rather win the gold medal than get a record,” Wiland said. “People always remember you when you win.”
The 30-year-old net minder is having a career season. He has 16 shut outs in 22 games and has allowed just seven goals in the six matches in which an opponent scored. Wiland, however, plays down his gaudy numbers.
“It’s really not so difficult because of the team I have in front of me,” Wiland said. “It’s the whole team’s success. We play a good defense from the forwards all the way back to me. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to do.”
Wiland said the addition of former Sweden international defender Teddy Lucic was probably one of the keys to the team’s defensive play this season. Lucic joined Elfsborg over the winter after he returned to Sweden to play for BK Hacken.
“He’s a man with a lot of experience,” Wiland said. “For the young guys coming into the team, it’s important to have a player like that in the team. He’s calm when he plays and he has a lot of experience, so he is very important.”
Still, the last line of defense is the goalkeeper and Wiland somewhat reluctantly admitted his own prowess.
“A couple of years ago I played pretty good, but it seems like I took another step,” he said. “I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I am a little older and I am coming into my prime. I am playing more aggressively this year, plus I changed some things in how I train. We looked at DVDs of me from last year and saw some stuff that we had to practice on and, of course, all the pieces have gone right this year.”
Wiland’s stellar play in the Allsvenskan earned him a spot on the Swedish national team, where he is currently the No. 2 goalkeeper behind Andreas Isaaksson. The Elfsborg net minder was the No. 3 goalkeeper during the 2008 European Championships but moved up when former No. 2 Rami Shaaban suffered an injury. Wiland said he has sights set on becoming the No. 1 goalkeeper, but he also said he knows and accepts his role.
“Right now Andreas is the best goalkeeper for Sweden,” he said. “He has experience from Manchester City and now plays for PSV (Eindhoven in Holland). He is a very good goalkeeper.”
So is Wiland. The Elfsborg ‘keeper is chasing records few thought any team would or could. He’s already topped the fewest goals allowed in 22 games, a record that belonged to Malmo from 1986 and 1989. When the league expanded to 24 matches, AIK set the next mark, allowing just 11 goals for a 0.54 goals against average.
This year, the Allsvenskan expanded to 28 matches, giving Wiland and Elfsborg the opportunity to set a record likely to stand for some time.
“We will have to concentrate on every game,” Wiland said.
For Wiland, that means one thing. “I go into every game wanting a shut out and I hope every goalkeeper does the same,” he said. “I have to have that attitude when I go on field. I have to play my best all the time. (In our last game) we scored four goals but that’s only happened twice this year. I have to keep it safe in the back because we don’t score a lot. I have to have that attitude.”
Elfsborg is currently in second place in the Allsvenskan, four points behind first-place Kalmar. Elfsborg plays Kalmar in Kalmar on Sept. 28, a match Wiland called a must win.
“It’s been a little bit irritating that we can’t seem to catch them,” he said. “I hope we can beat them away when we play against them.”
A win would move Elfsborg within a point of first with two games left to play in the season. It would also give Wiland the chance to extend his record-setting play. If he allows three or fewer goals in his final six games, he would shatter the single-season goals against record Mattias Asper set with AIK in 1999.
“That would be nice, but I would rather win the gold medal,” Wiland said. “The gold medal is more important than records, although it’s nice to get records, too.
“Ok, I guess I would like both.”