Stockholm: Steven Gerrard will become the sixth Englishman to win 100 caps if, as the English Football Association expects, he is passed fit after a scan on his knee to play against Sweden in Wednesday's friendly. Gerrard took a knock on the knee during Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday but should travel to Sweden with the rest of the party which has already been depleted by the withdrawals of five players including Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott.
"Gerrard is expected to be fit to travel to Sweden," the FA said on their website (www.thefa.com) on Monday. While Gerrard, 32, could be winning his 100th cap, his 17-year-old Liverpool team mate Raheem Sterling could win his first 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 soccer, 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 Roy Hodgson is still held in high esteem in Sweden where he had spells coaching Halmstad, Oddevold, Orebro and most successfully Malmo where a section of the ground 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.