Tag Archives: Sweden
Most football analysts, commentators and pundits have expended considerable energy on evaluating what the consensus within the global footballing public has determined as the favourites for UEFA Euro 2012: acres of paper and serious screen real estate has concentrated on the squads and tactics of nations such as Spain and Germany, with the odd reference to countries such as France, Italy and Russia thrown in for good measure. But we at Mediolana have discerned an equally fascinating topic of discussion, illustrated by that most curious of contenders, England: the growing importance of infinitesimal, barely-discernible margins in determining success and failure.
To date, England have played two matches at these finals (8th June 2012 – 1st July 2012, Poland and Ukraine): an opening encounter against France (11th June 2012) and last night’s second fixture, an extremely tense game against the Zlatan Ibrahimović-defined Sweden. In England’s first match, they were outshot by their French counterparts in terms of efforts on target by a ratio of 15:1, yet the final score was somehow 1-1. Against Sweden, England needed the assistance of a quite inexplicable error from a goalkeeper with over 90 international caps in order to come back from 2-1 down and almost-certain elimination. Yet at the end of both these games, England were unbeaten with four points on the board and an at least fair chance of proceeding to the knockout stages of the tournament.
A comparison with Group D rivals Sweden is instructive. Sweden convincingly led Ukraine in their first assignment and were by all accounts most unfortunate to come away from the match with a loss; the Swedes also mounted a terrific comeback against England in the first third of the second half, again constructing a winning position in difficult circumstances. But at the time of writing, they are one of only two sides whose removal from Euro 2012 is assured.
How has this state of affairs arisen? Attention to (and luck pertaining to) the tiniest of details appears to be determining destinies. Had England not benefitted from manager Roy Hodgson’s exceptionally astute utilisation of pacy (and mostly inconsistent) substitute Theo Walcott – one fringe player out of twenty-two squad members – large sections of the UK media would doubtless already be baying for his blood; had Sweden captain Ibrahimović given his team a first-half lead against Ukraine instead of seeing his header trickle agonisingly against a post and out of play, the Scandinavians might well be preparing for the quarter-finals instead of flying back home for an extended summer of leisure. Razor-thin success/failure margins are likely to have a very large say in the ultimate destination of the Henri Delaunay Trophy this summer.
Fresh from another session on the step machine, Mediolana’s CSO had to verify that what he was seeing was not the result of a combination of poor posture and dehydration; however, as the reports rolled in, he had no choice but to credit his eyes with some intelligence. Zlatan Ibrahimović, the Sweden and AC Milan icon, was being hailed as a minor deity by the opinion makers of English football!
One performance – a sublime ninety minutes sporting the red-black shirt of the soccer and cultural asset in the perhaps increasingly tenuous ownership of Silvio Berlusconi – was enough, apparently, to bury a decade of negative appraisals. Ibra, we are told, is now one of the best, if not the best, strikers in the world. The fact that clubs such as Ajax, Internazionale and FC Barcelona – as well as Milan – have all paid out a king’s ransom for Ibrahimović is no longer an anomaly, and his presence in a squad a guarantee that his club will win their domestic league is, we are assured, not the stuff of coincidence.
What next? What will be the next piece of nonsensical, incredible dogma to be vanquished, with Damascene conversions aplenty ensuing? Could it involve something from the world of economics? Or is that hoping for far too much?
As our regulars readers will doubtless recall, when the pangs of cultural longing take hold of us, we at Mediolana never discount IKEA as a source of inspiration; the Sweden-inaugrated, Holland-headquarted purveyor of ready-to-assemble furniture (‘RTA’) has never been found wanting when it comes to making us think, rethink and rethink again. The secret of IKEA is, of course, that the process of upgrading one’s kitchen, living room or office is never about purchasing a China-manufactured cutlery holder or a plush heart-shaped pillow stitched together by some diligent Indonesian; rather, it is much more about the invariable reflection involved in such an undertaking. Additionally, the high (post-)modernity and giant scale of IKEA stores – in London at least, it seems that the location of an IKEA is restricted to the limits of North American-style suburban retail parks – encourages a certain kind of awe, as if passing through a secular Church of Functional Consumption.
Yet on a material level at least, IKEA is not all about funky document bins or, as we noted in our post of 9th September 2011, polyester footballs. Little known even to most who shop at the brainchild of Ingvar Kamprad is something that will be, at least to many British consumers, a breath of fresh air that is found within the depths of IKEA shops nationwide: the Swedish Food Market (‘SFM’). Stocking a limited range of essential items such as chocolate and crab paste, the SFM seems to source most of its wares direct from Sweden itself or Germany, so quality is not so much assured as adored.
But there is something profoundly confusing about the SFM: while one would expect a niche store within a store to slap niche prices on its merchandise, IKEA’s Swedish Food Market appears to do anything but. Our blogger-in-chief was able to pick up four substantial gourmet items (a large slab of hazelnut chocolate, a huge tube of the aforementioned crab paste, a family-size packet of sour cream and onion crisps and some cool-looking dunkies) for a frankly absurdly cheap £4.05; at a rough guess, this is something like 50-60% of the price for the equivalent items in the Waitrose or Sainsbury’s high street chains, despite the fact that all of the foodstuffs are imported and are of absolutely superb calibre.
We are at a loss to explain this phenomenon, though it does remind us somewhat of the situation in international supermarkets across London, where Turkish pasta sauce, Korean noodle snacks and flour from Bosnia and Herzegovina somehow manage to be more economical than their processed equivalents hailing from the English countryside. However, in a United Kingdom which is experiencing significant price inflation, such an extraordinary price differential is, at the very least, food for thought.