For all kinds of reasons, it has the makings of a classic. Two teams on the edge of destiny, a place in the semi-finals at stake, and an opportunity to claim bragging rights at a certain flat-pack furniture store. If there was any justice, we could settle the match on the strength of Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat, but instead we’ll attempt to predict the outcome with some automotive input. Well, if Paul the psychic octopus can do it, so can we.
While Southgate considers who should start up-front with Harry Kane, we’ll start with a luxury showdown. The Volvo XC90 entered the field of play and kick-started a revolution for the Swedish giant, laying the foundations for a host of superbly executed products. Enough to shoot Sweden into an early lead?
If the Volvo XC90 is a Scandi-noir drama, the Range Rover is more Lock, Stock & Two Striking Partners. While the XC90 is brooding in a Zlatan Ibrahimovic kind of way, the Range Rover is more Jordan Henderson in the penalty box. We’re giving this one to Sweden.
From luxury SUVs we turn to a pair of wedges from the 1970s, with England hoping to grab a quick equaliser. For Sweden, all hopes rest on the Sonnet III, complete with manually-operated pop-up headlights, Ford V4 engine and a touch of Italian flair. Sweden failed to get out of Group 2 in the 1970 World Cup, despite victory against Uruguay in their final game. The signs aren’t good…
But things improve for the Swedes when they turn around to see the Triumph TR7 warming up on the sidelines. Seeing the TR7 for the first time, legendary designer Giorgetto Giugiaro said “My God! They’ve done the same to the other side as well.” Not even a pair of pop-up headlights can save England here. That’s 2-0 to Sweden. Maybe football isn’t coming home after all.
Saab 900 Convertible
The leafy commuter belt of south east England seems a world away from Russia, but that’s where the next battle will be decided. Back in the 1980s, no Surrey street was complete without a Saab 900 Convertible parked on the manicured driveway of a mock Tudor mansion. A bonafide classic – England is going to struggle to stay in the game.
Jaguar XJS Convertible
Oh dear. The hopes of the nation are resting on the much-maligned shoulders of the Jaguar XJS. The last time England felt so lost and all at sea, Gary Lineker was being waved off the pitch to be replaced by Alan Smith. In fairness, the XJS had matured into a fine car by the end of its career, but it’s too little, too late. Not even VAR can save England from going 3-0 behind.
Every squad needs its steam train sprinter able to travel the length of the pitch, to rob the opposition of all hope of reclaiming possession. That car for Sweden couldn’t be anything but the Koenigsegg One:1. Its less extreme sibling, the Agera RS, is enjoying honours at the top of the list of the fastest road cars on Earth, with a 284mph recorded maximum speed. They can get there quick enough too, with 248mph arriving within 20 seconds. Fat chance of a score as good as One:1 for England with power like that. Live with that, Lions…
McLaren P1 GTR
On a circuit at least, the P1 GTR absolutely can. Hybrid power, track-only slick boots and a hefty 660kg of downforce at 150mph mean a P1 GTR trumps the ’Egg in all but a straight line. With nimble moves and ample skill to outsmart the big Swede, that’s a goal for England. Could it be coming home on a wave of turbo-flutter and the hum of torque-fill?
Until the 2018 World Cup, Germany were the past meisters of football. But their performance in Russia was more Trabant than Audi R8. A hiccup, perhaps, and we fully expect Germany to return to form at the next Euros. And, what’s the most famous German car? The Volkswagen Beetle, of course. Squint and consume a few too many Kopparbergs and the Saab 96 could pass as Sweden’s Beetle. It can also call upon a rich motorsport heritage. Can it propel Sweden to a 4-1 lead?
When it’s faced with the might of the Morris Minor, not a chance. The first British car to sell a million, the ‘Moggie’ is the quintessential English car – given the chance, it would line up alongside the England team to belt out a stirring rendition of God Save the Queen. A British success story, the Minor lives in the shadow created by Alec Issigonis’ more famous creation. But it’s good enough to put England right back in the game. That’s 3-2 to Sweden.
This might be a tournament too soon for the electric car, but this should be a fascinating duel between two silent assassins. Polestar is the new premium electric car brand from Volvo, and the Polestar 1 will be making its public debut at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. If this battle was based on style, the Polestar would see off just about any competitor. But just like Beckham, it will also need a few tricks up its sleeves…
If it’s good enough to see off the Germans, it has to be good enough to beat Sweden. In fairness, Sweden were progressing to the quarter-finals while the Germans were securing their slot on the beach, but the I-Pace remains a game-changer for the segment and Jaguar. With only a hint of tyre noise, the electric winger equalises for England. Unbelievable stuff, Clive.
No footballing duel would be complete without a pair of shooting brakes. Launched in 1971, the 1800ES took the pretty face of the P1800 and added the practicality of an estate rear end. In footballing terms, it’s a utility player, offering tremendous flexibility and stylish good looks. Just over 8,000 were built before the 1800 ES was seen off by US safety regulations.
Reliant Scimitar GTE
This is a tough one, not least because the Reliant Scimitar GTE beat the Volvo to market. Launched in 1968, the Scimitar GTE enjoyed a remarkably long innings, with the final car rolling off the line in 1990. This battle is going to the wire, right up until the point that England play an ace card in the form of Princess Anne. And, if that’s not enough, Noel Edmonds was another Scimitar GTE owner. England are leading 4-3.
Saab 99 Turbo
It’s amazing what turbocharging can do for a brand. Before the 99 Turbo, Saab was famous for building dependable and reliable cars, with a hint of aeronautical influence for good measure. That all changed in 1978, when the brand finally took off. The 99 Turbo shaped the company’s future in the same way four-wheel drive changed the fortunes of Audi. Enough for Sweden to sweep England aside?
Triumph Dolomite Sprint
Triumph had the BMW 2000 Tii clearly in its sights when it launched the Dolomite Sprint. Here was a four-door saloon that could boast a 116mph top speed, a sub 10-sec 0-60mph time and handling that could rival a more expensive sports car. In true English style, it could also boast a walnut veneer dashboard. But while both the 99 Turbo and Dolomite were based on ageing products, the 99’s gonna blow them away, gonna blow them away. That’s 4-4.
Volvo 850 BTCC
The Volvo 850 was an unlikely basis for a racing car. The estate racer was kept totally secret until its track debut in 1994 with Rickard Rydell at the wheel. Although an estate body isn’t what you’d have thought best for a racing car, Volvo liked the attention it would garner. It’d win in terms coolness and the show it put on, if not performance. We’ve seen plenty a player put on the amateur dramatics angling for a penalty, and we’re afraid to say the big Volvo might have just weighed that in here.
Rover SD1 BSCC
A TWR-engineered machine also, the big Rover enjoyed success in 1984 when Andy Rouse secured the driver’s championship aboard the V8-powered Group A bruiser. In later years the SD1 would begin to show its age with the championship moving towards smaller, more tightly-wound and precise machinery but in its day unlike the Volvo, it was a bonafide winner. We’d love to give this one to the Volvo – because wagon – but the SD1 was a proper monster. That’s 5-4 to Sweden.
Three West Bromwich Albion players, dubbed the ‘Three Degrees’ by Ron Atkinson, are credited with inspiring a generation of black players. Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson played for the club in the late 1970s. What has this got to do with this gallery? Well, early examples of the Volvo P1800 were built at the Jensen works in West Bromwich.
Which presents a perfectly weighted through ball for the Jensen Interceptor, which can call upon American muscle, Italian flair and English grit as it attempts to get past the Swedish defence. The P1800 might be one of the prettiest cars ever to grace the planet, but it’s no match for the Interceptor. It’s an equaliser for England, with one round to go. Diego Maradona, if you’re watching, it might just be coming home.
Like its bouncing bewinged older sibling the Regera is possessed of prodigious straight-line performance and serious power. However, like the One:1, in the company of some hypercars it looks to be a bit of a one-trick player. The endurance and pace to get it up to the right end of the pitch, but perhaps lacking the finer-honed skill to bury it in the net? We would suggest they kick their game up a gear, but the Regera is a cogless wonder.
Aston Martin Valkyrie
Finer-honed skill is the Aston Martin Valkyrie’s bread and butter. Then again, so is brutal performance. Like the England team this year, the Valkyrie is a big gun that came out of nowhere and has seemingly bucked the view that England can no longer play to a world-leading standard. Aston claims 1,000bhp per-tonne like the One:1, but compared to the relative heft of the 1,360kg Koenigsegg, the Valkyrie weighs only 1,000kg. Naturally-aspirated V12 power with a hybrid jolt, combined with Le-Mans-worthy aero performance make the 250mph+ Valkyrie a jack of all trades and a master of most.
Enough for a final belter to help bring it home: 6-5 to England. Hopefully our boys let their inner-Valkyrie loose during this weekend’s game…