Five things you never knew about Victor Lindelof
Victor Lindelof had a former Manchester United player's jersey as a five-year-old kicking around the streets in Sweden.
The defender, who has helped his country top Group F to set up a last-16 date with Switzerland in the World Cup on Tuesday, will be relishing playing on the biggest stage of all in Russia.
After all, he entered this world just as footballing history was being made in the United States when a penalty shoot-out had everybody fixated, including his father!
During an interview with The Players' Tribune, who also published revealing insight from Romelu Lukaku recently, Lindelof lifted the lid on five things we never knew about him.
VICTOR WANTED TO BE A KEEPER
"You see, already when I was five years old, my mother fed my imagination. She bought me this goalkeeper kit - I think it was of Fabien Barthez, France’s goalkeeper. Suddenly, I wanted to be Barthez. I’d be out in the yard throwing myself into the mud, making these heroic stops.
"Ohhhh! What a save by Lindelöf!"
A SENSE OF TIMING
"Of course, once I came into this world, my father was overwhelmed with joy. But then he said, “Okay., can we find a TV now?”
My mother just rolled her eyes, because she knew what he meant. She was like: “Really? Really?”
And my father said: “I know, I know, but they’re about to start taking the penalties.”
The day was 17 July, 1994. Up in Sweden, Victor Lindelof had just been born. Down in Pasadena, Italy was playing Brazil in the World Cup final."
TV SHOW OBSESSION
After moving to Lisbon to join Benfica, times were tough for Victor. Being so far away from home, and unable to speak the language, he was lonely.
"Even today I can picture that room as if I was still living there. I can see the small flat-screen TV … the beige desk … the red curtains … the concrete balcony where you could see the training pitches … the bed with red sheets … and a mattress so hard that you might as well sleep on the floor.
"All I did in there, really, was call my mother on Skype and watch Entourage. I’m not joking. For six months, my best friend wasn’t anyone in Lisbon. It was Vincent Chase."
AN OLD HEAD ON YOUNG SHOULDERS
We know some at the Aon Training Complex joke Eric Bailly acts like a 30-year-old - remember the birthday cake incident when he turned 24? Eric told United Review: "It was a trick played on me in the dressing room. I think it was joke set up between the staff and the chefs to decorate the birthday cake like that. It’s nice to get a gift like that and it gave us all a laugh, but yes, I am 24 and definitely not 30 yet!"
But the same thing is said to another of our men in the middle of the defence, as Victor reveals.
"It’s actually funny, because some say I act as if I’m 30. I guess they’re right, because I’ve had to mature quickly to overcome so many challenges and get so far."
Penalty shoot-outs might fill most English people with dread but not this cool customer. He won the European Under-21 Championship with Sweden on spot-kicks and nothing was knocking him out of his stride.
"When I looked at the faces of my team-mates, I felt we had already won. We were all so calm. We scored our first. Then they score. We score. They miss. Eventually it’s my turn to take our fifth penalty. So I go into my own bubble. I’m so engrossed, my eyes are glazed. As I walk up to the spot, I hear a Portuguese player say: 'He’s gonna miss it.' That fires me up even more. I smash the ball down the middle - goal!
"Then Portugal misses, and we go mad … Sweden is the European Under-21 champions!"
Let's hope any Reds stepping up during the rest of the tournament in Russia are equally nerveless!