Scandinavia crowns its champions
© AFP

As the harsh Scandinavian winter begins to bite, the region's footballers are entering their very own period of hibernation, some of them with fresh title triumphs to warm them during the cold months ahead.

Aside from the Danes, who will play on until early December before taking a three-and-a-half-month mid-season break, the major Nordic nations all stick to summer-centred domestic campaigns, meaning that the time has come to hand out the prizes. Finland, for example, concluded its league season on Saturday, Sweden on Sunday, while Norway - where the champions have already been crowned - will stage its final fixtures of the year this weekend.

Indeed, it is here, in the region's westernmost nation, that FIFA.com begins its rundown of Scandinavia's biggest winners and losers.

Norway: Brann scratch 44-year itch
Norwegian football is back in the spotlight after Rosenborg's shock 2-0 win over Spanish giants Valencia in the last round of UEFA Champions League fixtures.

The result was all the more remarkable for the fact that the Trondheim outfit - champions in 14 of the previous 15 seasons - have spent the domestic season languishing in mid-table mediocrity. So far off the pace were Rosenborg, in fact, that coach Knut Torum left the club by mutual consent less than 24 hours after masterminding Valencia's downfall, acknowledging that the club's position of sixth in the 14-team Tippeligaen made his position untenable. He said: "The league table shows that 2007 was not a good year for this club, where you have to come first to make people happy."

In the end, the trophy prised from Trondheim went to a club with a considerably less illustrious recent history, as Brann clinched their first title since 1963 - and with two matches to spare. The Bergen outfit have long been one of Norway's best-supported clubs but their lack of success has become legendary and there was an unpleasant sense of déjà vu vu when, with 50,000 of their fans gathered in front of giant screens in the city centre, they failed to secure the point they needed away to Alesund FK.

Fears of another late collapse were, however, dispelled just two nights later when Stabaek, their only remaining title rivals, crashed to a 2-1 defeat at Viking that returned Brannn to the summit of Norwegian football for the first time in 44 years. "Some people have said it was not possible for a Bergen club to win the league, because of the pressure," was how coach Mons Ivar Mjelde reacted to the news. "Now we have proved them wrong."

Sweden: IFK edge three-horse race
It was a similar story in Sweden, where IFK Goteborg - twice UEFA Cup winners during the 1980s - reclaimed the national title for the first time in 11 years. The west coast outfit had not been considered among the favourites after selling off star striker Marcus Berg, but a 2-0 win over Trelleborgs in front of a sell-out crowd of 41,000 saw them just beat Kalmar and Djurgardens to the line on a tense final day on which any of the three could have been crowned champions.

The title-clinching goal came from Magnus Johansson, one of three survivors from the class of 96, and the 35-year-old claimed that this current championship leaves its predecessor firmly in the shade. He said: "This is an outstanding victory - the best I've ever experienced. We came into this season without any pressure and we've clinched the title."

Credit for IFK emerging from nowhere must go to co-coaches Stefan Rehn and Jonas Ohlsson, who as well as compensating for Berg's loss by successfully converting former defensive midfielder Pontus Wembloom, also proved willing to gamble on youth. Niklas Bärkroth, 15, and Jakob Johansson, 17, were both handed Allsvenskan debuts, while 21-year-old right-back Reynir Sigurdsson has been one of the pillars on which their success has been built.

Finland: Tampere take the title
While the title changed hands in Norway and Sweden, Tampere United made sure that, in Finland, the league trophy stayed put for at least another year. Like Brann, the defending champions did so with two games to spare, pulling eight points clear of an FC Haka side who couldn't match their rivals' superior experience.

Tampere looked to have missed out on sealing the title last Saturday when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Myllykosken Pallo-47, but when Haka replicated that scoreline 24 hours later at FC Lahti, the celebrations could begin in earnest. This is the third championship for a club formed as recently as 1998, and it very nearly coincided with the most famous result in their short history when they gave Bordeaux an almighty scare in the UEFA Cup, drawing 2-2 on French soil before eventually bowing out 4-3 on aggregate.