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England and Sweden played to a predictably close Group F draw in Saitama, Japan, with Sol Campbell and Niclas Alexandersson getting the goals on either side of half-time. The English had the better of play in the first half, but Sweden fought back well and in the end earned their share of the spoils.

Explosive forwards Michael Owen for England and Henrik Larsson for Sweden never got terribly involved in the action that often got caught up in midfield scrambles. England captain David Beckham set up the Campbell goal from a corner, but the just-fit midfielder was substituted near the hour mark. England and Sweden are now left chasing group leader, Argentina, who beat Nigeria earlier in the day.

The ball spent almost as much time in the air as on the grass in the opening minutes as the teams exchanged long balls. The match quickly became physical, with midair collisions becoming a common sight.

England, looking for the streaking Michael Owen and Darius Vassell up front, created more dangerous situations than the Swedes, though no real chances presented themselves until a David Beckham corner kick from the left side found a high-flying Sol Campbell, who headed firmly past Sweden goalkeeper Magnus Hedman (1:0, 24’).

The game opened up some after the first goal, and though England continued to be the more dangerous team, Sweden began putting some pressure on the England defence, most notably when Henrik Larsson sent a 25-metre free-kick just wide of David Seaman’s goal (29’).

Though each side pushed forward intently, they could only produce half-chances in the last quarter-hour of the half. Ashley Cole tested Hedman with a blast from 30 metres, but the goalkeeper was well-positioned and caught it cleanly (38’). Marcus Allback gave English fans a scare as half-time approached. He received the ball in the area with his back to goal, turned and shot over the crossbar from 15 metres (44’).

The second half began with each team having a try with a hopeful shot, first Campbell for England and then Allback for Sweden.

Some clumsy defending by England’s Danny Mills resulted in a poor clearance straight to Alexandersson, who dribbled the ball into the penalty arc before shooting a left-foot bullet off Seaman’s right hand and into the net (1:1, 59’).

Sweden were vitalised by the goal, and they almost got a second immediately after, when Teddy Lucic’s fierce volley from the edge of the area was saved nicely by Seaman (61’). Lucic missed another golden chance minutes later. He got behind the defence on a counterattack but hit his shot off the chest of the onrushing Seaman (65’).

The match levelled out after that, and Emile Heskey, silent for much of the game, missed his opportunity to play the hero when he fired a low shot from 15 metres wide of the far post (80’). The big Liverpool striker was again the danger man as stoppage time approached, this time missing wide with a header from 10 metres (90’).

Though the result may not be disastrous for England fans, they still have to deal with the knowledge that they have not beaten Sweden in 34 years.