Sweden ends World Cup boycott ... after it qualifies for knockout round

Sweden’s defender Andreas Granqvist (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between Mexico and Sweden at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 27, 2018. (Getty Images)

Before the 2018 World Cup had even begun, Sweden announced an official boycott of the tournament in a show of solidarity with the UK, following the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in London. It was an act which is believed to have been carried out by Russian agents. But on Friday, Sweden’s Social Democrat-Green government announced it would be lifting the boycott … following the Swedish team’s qualification for the tournament’s knockout stage.

After opening its World Cup with a win over South Korea, Sweden bounced back from a frustrating loss to Germany to beat Mexico in some style and progress to the next round at the top of Group F. The team’s success at the tournament seems to have led to a sudden change of heart in the corridors of power in the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

“We’re in another situation now. Football should be something that unites. Denmark will also send people, and the UK won’t object to us traveling there. Exactly what they will do understandably depends on what happens in the football. I don’t think they’ve decided. We will continue to cheer for our team,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom speaking to Expressen.

No official announcement has been made in terms of who the Swedish government will send, although Prime Minister Stefan Lovren has ruled out the possibility of him personally attending.

“I think it was an important line to draw but now we’re in a different situation in a footballing sense. It’s not at all double standards – our political views remain the same,” said Lovren.

Much was made of Sweden’s decision to not recall striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the tournament, but coach Janne Anderson’s team has overcome everything from a spying scandal to racist online attacks against one of its players to exceed expectations in Russia.

Sweden will meet Switzerland in the Round of 16 on Tuesday, July 3.

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