New Swedish supporter scandal: "They wanted a hug"
Sweden warmed up for Friday's vital World Cup qualifier against Austria in Vienna with an underwhelming 1-0 win over Macedonia last night. The biggest talking point from the friendly at the Swedbank stadium in Malmö however was the half-time pitch invasion by three supporters who went to greet star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on his hometown return.
The security breach provoked strong reactions, coming on the back of recent incidents during international games in Sweden which threatened player safety. In February, World Footballer of the Year Lionel Messi was approached by a fan on the pitch when Argentina came to play Sweden at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.
Sweden's star striker Ibrahimovic though was unconcerned by last night's pitch intrusion. "They wanted to have a hug. It's completely okay," he told TV4.
The Swedish Football Federation's safety officer, Anders Sigurdson, told media that it was difficult to stop without resorting to perimeter fencing, which he does not want to see during international matches. He agreed that although the fans last night just wanted to "meet their idol" it could have had far more serious consequences.
In the match, 21-year-old Alexander Kacaniklic scored Sweden's goal. The Swede, who enjoyed a fine season with Fulham in the Premier League is in line to start against Austria on Friday.
Sweden are third in Group C but have the same points as second placed Austria, having played a game less.
In reality, Sweden are involved in a three-way tussle with Austria and Ireland to finish second in the group behind Germany. Sweden were held at home to a goaless draw by Ireland in their last World Cup qualifier in March.