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World Sport

Larsson double as Swedes celebrate


Fredrik Ljungberg
Ljungberg sets Sweden on their way to a resounding five-star Euro win

LISBON, Portugal -- Striker Henrik Larsson marked his return to the big stage by scoring twice in two minutes as Sweden crushed Bulgaria 5-0 in their opening Euro 2004 clash.

The victory, Sweden's biggest in the European Championship, gave them early control of Group C after Italy and Denmark earlier drew 0-0.

Sweden had not won their first game in eight previous tournaments dating back to the 1958 World Cup, but after an edgy start they took control.

Fredrik Ljungberg set Sweden on their way after 32 minutes before they scored four times in the second half.

The breakthrough came when Anders Svensson sent a long pass into the path of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic who crossed low for Ljungberg to touch in from point-blank range.

Bulgaria, seeking their first win over the Scandinavians since 1967, had almost drawn first blood when Zoran Jankovich volleyed just wide.

At the other end Larsson, playing his 75th international after changin his mind about retiring aftter the 2002 World Cup, went close from Mikael Nilsson's cross.

There was a flying start to the second half when the ever-dangerous Martin Petrov crossed for Jankovich to head just wide while Petrov was only just off target in the 55th minute.

But just as Bulgaria threatened to draw level, Celtic star Larsson left them reeling.

Full length header

In the 57th minute defender Erik Edman swung in a tempting cross from the left and Larsson launched himself full length to head an early contender for goal of the tournament.

story.larsson5.afp.jpg
Larsson heads his early contender for goal of the tournament

Just over a minute later Anders Svensson drove a low cross in from the right and Larsson arrived at the far post to steer the ball into the roof of the net.

"It went perfectly. I can't imagine a better way to make my comeback in a competitive match," said Larsson.

"It's a great result but it is only the first game and we must not get carried away. There's a long way to go and we will enjoy it tonight, but after tomorrow we focus on the next game."

The Swedish fans roared their team forward to try to match their 4-0 success in the 1994 World Cup third-place playoff, when Larsson also scored.

And they got their wish 12 minutes from time when Ljungberg was brought down just inside the box and Ibrahimovic lashed in the spot kick.

Substitute Marcus Allback added a fifth in time added on to put Sweden in great spirits before they take on Italy in Porto on Friday.


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