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St Pat's target famous European night in one of Swedish football's spiritual homes

St Pat’s travel to the home of IFK Norrköping on Thursday night aiming for a historic European result.

Nya Parken is a multi-purpose stadium in Norrköping, Sweden. Source: WikiCommons

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC go to Sweden needing the biggest European away victory in the club’s history if they are to stand a chance at progressing to the next round of the Europa League.

On only four occasions have they managed to score two goals in an away tie and just once have they managed to find the net three times. Of those five games, not once have they managed a victory away from home (two draws, three defeats).

But going to Sweden, inspiration for an unlikely upset is everywhere.

In 1992, Denmark were rewriting their own footballing folklore by winning a first-ever European Championships and major tournament with a 2-0 victory over Germany.

Norrköpings Idrottspark — now known as Nya Parken or, for sponsorship reasons, Östgötaporten — the 17,234-seater stadium was the only one of the four host venues that didn’t directly experience the Danish fairytale.

But this is exactly where St Pat’s will look to make some history of their own on Thursday night.

Originally built in 1903, the home of IFK Norrköping was refurbished a decade ago but still retains its sense of tradition, heavily intertwined with Sweden’s footballing identity for over a century.

Nya_Parken1 The refurbished Östgötaporten. Source: WikiCommons

When the Swedes opened their arms as hosts for their first and only World Cup in the country’s history in 1958, the Idrottsparken was chosen as a venue and increased its capacity to the 20,000 minimum limit.

The ground played host to Paraguay’s Group 2 games against France and Scotland. It was in this stadium where the tournament’s top scorer Just Fontaine plundered five of his 13 goals before Les Bleus were dumped out by eventual world champions, Brazil.

The Idrottsparken was also selected for one quarter-final, between the free-scoring French and Northern Ireland, and it was here that captain Danny Blanchflower led his remarkable team to the end of their World Cup run.

The line-up that day included a host of high-profile names such as Sunderland’s Billy Bingham and goalkeeper of the tournament, Manchester United’s Harry Gregg.

Gregg played in all of Nothern Ireland’s games just four months after the Munich Air Disaster where he valiantly pulled team-mates from the aircraft’s flaming wreckage.

Although dwarfed now by more modern stadia like the Friends Arena in Stockholm, which hosted the Europa League final in 2017, the Nya Parken has remained a part of the some of the country’s biggest sporting occasions despite being located in just the 10th largest city in Sweden.

It was again selected for the 2013 Women’s European Championships when 9,260 people saw neighbours Norway book their place in the tournament final at the expense of Scandinavian rivals, Denmark.

On Thursday evening, Harry Kenny’s side will be playing in the country’s fifth largest football stadium and perhaps Sweden’s most impressive in terms of the games it has hosted.

The Dublin club will go into the game as massive underdogs, but can take hope from the history by which they’ll be surrounded.

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