Nordic kings crowned
It may be a matter of weeks since the starting pistol sounded in most European leagues, but across Scandinavia, the finishing line has been coming into view for some time. Championship medals have already been handed out in some Nordic nations, in fact, while the remaining title races are nearing the end of the final straight. Here, FIFA.com casts an eye over the region’s big winners.
Finland: Litmanen’s long wait ends
A 24th Finnish title for record champions HJK Helsinki might not have caused ripples throughout the football world, but the involvement of one particular player made this latest championship both memorable and historic. That’s because Jari Litmanen, Finland’s greatest ever footballer, finally – at the ripe old age of 40 – got his hands on his country’s biggest prize, this after missing out with MyPa, Lahti and during a previous stint with HJK. Litmanen’s wait finally came to an end on Sunday, with a 2-0 win at IFK Mariehamn that secured a domestic double and a third consecutive title for HJK. Goals from Akseli Pelvas and Berat Sadik took the capital outfit 21 points clear of second-placed Inter Turku with five games to play, capping a season in which they have set new records for wins in a single season (23) and goals scored (72).
Top three: HJK (70 pts), Inter Turku (49), JJK (47)
Iceland: KR’s quarter-century
No club in Scandinavia has won more national titles than KR Reykjavik. This was the capital club’s 25th, keeping them ahead of Finland’s HJK (24) and Rosenborg of Norway (22), and means they have now won exactly a quarter of Icelandic championships since 1912. Nonetheless, reclaiming this familiar old trophy was met with as much relief as joy, as KR had gone into this season on an unusually long seven-year title drought. The fact the Reykjavik outfit sealed the crown with a game to spare, having lost just once all season – and with the national cup already in the trophy cabinet – merely added to the sense of a job exceptionally well done.
Top three: KR (47 pts), FH (44), IBV (40)
Sweden: Seventh heaven for Helsingborgs
The Allsvenskan trophy is on the move again, with the last seven years having witnessed as many different clubs win the title. Helsingborgs is its latest destination after an impressive campaign in which the newly-crowned champions remained unbeaten at home and crossed the finishing line with three games to spare. This was Di Röe’s first title since 1999 and was secured despite the club selling three of its key players halfway through the league season. Never before has Sweden seen such a sequence of different league champions, with Helsingborgs having continued a run that has also witnessed Djurgardens, Elfsborg, IFK Gothenburg, Kalmar, AIK and old rivals Malmo take their country’s top honour.
Top three: Helsingborgs (62 pts), Elfsborg (54), AIK (54)
Norway: Molde close in
After surviving the entire 2010 Tippeligaen season without tasting defeat, Rosenborg have proved more fallible this season and, barring a late miracle, look all but certain to hand over their crown. Molde have assumed the position of Norway’s dominant force in 2011 and, with five games remaining, hold a ten-point cushion over their Trondheim rivals, albeit having played one game more. Also giving chase are Tromso, for whom veteran striker Sigurd Rushfeldt this season became the Tippeligaen’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing former Rosenborg team-mate Harald Brattbakk’s record of 166.
Top three: Molde (52 pts), Rosenborg (42*), Tromso (42)
* One game in hand
With three rounds left to play, it remains too close to call in the Faroe Islands, where B36 Torshavn lead EB/Streymur by just two points. One certainty is that the title won’t be staying with holders HB, who are currently languishing in eighth position as a miserable season for the record champions nears its conclusion.
Finally, in Denmark – the only Nordic nation to have adopted a more traditional European league calendar – FC Copenhagen are already beginning to disappear over the horizon. Though the season is only 11 matches old, the capital outfit are already ten points clear of their nearest challengers, unbeaten, and firmly on course for a fourth successive title.