World Cup goal drought continues for Sweden striker Berg
The 31-year-old Berg has failed to find the net so far in Russia, including a miss in the 1-0 victory over Switzerland that put Sweden into the quarterfinals for the first time since the 1994 tournament. But he is expected to be on the field again when his team faces England, which finally won a penalty shootout at the World Cup on Tuesday.
”He’s there. It’s just a matter of time,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said after Emil Forsberg’s deflected shot was enough to beat Switzerland. ”Marcus is putting in an excellent performance in this match.”
Berg looked to have emerged from the long shadow of Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he notched eight goals in World Cup qualifying, but he now has gone four World Cup matches without getting another.
It was the same story two years ago, when he was goalless at the European Championship in France, Ibrahimovic’s last tournament before he retired from international soccer, as Sweden was eliminated after the group stage.
With a tactical game built on a foundation of rugged defense, Sweden looks to its forwards to convert the few chances that fall to them in tight matches. So far in Russia, Berg has missed his shots or seen them saved. In 61 international appearances, Berg has scored 18 goals.
His drought in Russia comes in the wake of a prolific season for the latest in a long line of clubs. He was the standout player last season for Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, scoring 25 goals in 21 matches to lead his team to the league and cup double.
He has also prospered against lower level opposition in World Cup qualifying, including scoring four when Sweden routed Luxembourg 8-0. A month earlier, however, Luxembourg had held European Championship runner-up France to a frustrating 0-0 draw in another World Cup qualifier.
Berg’s first major team was Swedish club Goteborg, where he scored 21 goals in 53 appearances. He raised his scoring rate at Dutch club FC Groningen, with 32 goals in 56 appearances, earning him a transfer to the Bundesliga. At Hamburg, Berg could only manage five goals in 54 matches before being loaned to PSV Eindhoven.
Berg rediscovered his scoring touch at Greek club Panathinaikos, scoring 65 goals in 99 appearances before his transfer to Al Ain.
After his most successful domestic club season, the goals have dried up in Russia in what, given his age, could be his last World Cup.
Berg started all three group matches as Sweden beat South Korea on a penalty by captain Andreas Granqvist in its opening match, lost to Germany 2-1 and beat Mexico 3-0.
Berg came close to scoring against Germany but appeared to be fouled in the area. No penalty was awarded and the Swedes were angry that the video review was not called upon to check the play.
That chance and the others Berg has had in Russia show that he is putting himself in position to score. And his coach is sure he will again do just that, hopefully against England on Saturday in Samara.
”The goals will come, that’s the way it is in football,” Andersson said. ”Once a scorer, always a scorer.”
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