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   June 15, 2002 | 1615 IST


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Hedman fears none; respects Senegal

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Karen Iley

Sweden's Magnus Hedman showed what a fine goalkeeper he has become when he used all his experience to psyche out midfielder Ariel Ortega and save the Argentine's penalty in the World Cup group stage.

The 29-year-old's calmness under pressure owes much to his interest in the Korean martial art of taekwondo, which he believes has improved both his goalkeeping and inner peace.

It is no surprise, therefore, that he has no fears about playing debutants Senegal in the second round on Sunday in Oita, even though he does not underestimate the in-form Africans.

"Magnus HedmanWe can go a long way. After winning the 'Group of Death' we shouldn't fear anything," Hedman said, referring to group F opponents England, Nigeria and Argentina.

"But it's dangerous to make predictions -- Nigeria said they were going to win the World Cup before they played us -- so it's quite good to stay humble before the game."

Sweden beat Nigeria 2-1 to send them out of the tournament after the Africans had already lost to Argentina.

But Senegal, who beat France in the opening match of the World Cup, have not got this far on luck.

"Senegal have a good team. They are very strong, very physical and very dangerous going forward. But we know we can harm them in certain areas," Hedman said.

"We're up for a tough game."


Hedman, who gave up alcohol to prepare for the World Cup but still chews tobacco, plays for modest English first division club Coventry City but is hoping for a return to top flight football on the back of his fine international pedigree.

He has made 48 appearances for Sweden and has the remarkable record of having conceded only four goals in 18 World Cup and European championship qualifiers in which they did not lose.

He has seen three goals go past him so far at the World Cup and will try to make sure he does not concede any more by keeping a close eye on Senegal's lanky midfielder Pape Bouba Diop, who scored the winner against France and put two past Uruguay.

"They've got the big guy who's scored the three goals so far and with his length you have to be ready for the long toe coming out. Sometimes you expect him not to reach the ball but because he's so tall, but he can often get his long leg to it," he said.

"But it's not like I fear anyone. Overall, they have good attacking players."

Hedman, who was superb in Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Argentina, believes team spirit, solid performances and "never give up" defence could take Sweden far in this tournament.

But he would not say if they are good enough to match or better the country's 1994 performance when Sweden were third in the United States after losing the semi-final 1-0 to Brazil.

"Of course we want to do as well as in 1994, but you cannot compare it. The teams are different," he said.

Sweden seemed confident Hedman would start on Sunday despite injuring his back trying to stop Hernan Crespo's equaliser for Argentina, which came off the rebound from the Swede's penalty save as he guessed correctly to block Ortega's shot.

"There should be no problems with Magnus...his mobility has been restricted, but it's not serious," said team doctor Magnus Forssblad.

"Yes, I hope I'll play," Hedman said. "I was still a bit stiff this morning, but it's getting better."

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