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Thursday, July 14, 2011
Sweden's coach picks U.S. to win

By Joanne C. Gerstner

FRANKFURT -- Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby wishes his team were playing in the World Cup final against the United States on Sunday.

But the Swedes fell short, losing 3-1 to Japan on Wednesday, and will play for third place against France on Saturday.

Dennerby has a clear rooting interest, and a unique perspective, for the final match. Sweden is the only team in the World Cup to have played the U.S. and Japan, and those experiences sway Dennerby's vote for the Americans.

"My feeling is that the U.S. team will win the gold medal, and I really hope so because [U.S. coach] Pia [Sundhage] and I are friends," Dennerby said Thursday. "She's a great coach, and she is working with a great team. They are some of the best players in the world, and the team is very solid, a powerful team. I think these factors are going to be obstacles for Japan.

"I really can't see how they're going to score against the U.S. team. I don't think the U.S. team is going to make as big of mistakes [against Japan] as we did."

Sweden defeated the U.S., 2-1, on July 6 in Wolfsburg to win Group C. It is the only loss for the Americans in the tournament, and it dropped them to second place in the group.

But, Dennerby admits, the Swedish team that handled the U.S. was not the same one that played against Japan. He sees the U.S. having the depth of talent, size and speed to neutralize Japan's aggressive, possession-control game.

"I am pretty sure [that] the U.S. team will make it," Dennerby said. "But you have to say, it will be a game if Japan has a lot of possession. They have technical skills, good passing and all that.

"But [scoring] is going to be a big problem for them. Of course, if you let the easy goals in that we did, it's tough to win."

Sweden's task to bounce back could be more difficult than anticipated, as captain and star midfielder Caroline Seger is out due to a left-calf strain. She missed the Japan game after determining in warm-ups that she couldn't play.

Swedish team doctor Per Lindblom said an MRI revealed Seger's injury as fresh damage to her muscle, which likely occurred in the quarterfinal against Australia.

Lindblom said Seger understands the injury is serious enough to end her World Cup. Seger was not available to the media Thursday.

"She is very tough, yes, but she cannot play when she is hurt like that, it's too much," Lindblom said. "It is a very unusual injury, and it didn't have the usual symptoms. But we know now what is wrong, and we will start her on rest and therapy protocols. It is not what we want, no, but she understands and the team understands."