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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Love match: Why England V Sweden will be no quarter given for Dubai World Cup couple

Swede dreams aren't made of this for England fan 

Joe Lipscombe, English, and his girlfriend Madeleine Gulldhe, Swedish, face a tense weekend as the two countries face each other in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Saturday. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Joe Lipscombe, English, and his girlfriend Madeleine Gulldhe, Swedish, face a tense weekend as the two countries face each other in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Saturday. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Come Saturday, Joe Lipscombe's affections will be torn between 11 men (plus the substitutes) and one very special woman.

England will face Sweden on Saturday in Samara, in a World Cup quarter-final showdown that has an especially poignant meaning for the British expat.

Mr Lipscombe met his Swedish girlfriend Madeleine Gulldhe in Dubai two years ago, but Saturday's game will see them on opposing sides — for one night that is.

Mr Lipscombe is a big football fan. He follows the English Premier League closely, cheering on Manchester United, and come World Cup time, purchased a beIN Sports package without a second thought.

In fact, he even went a step further in building a fan zone of sorts in his house, and sends out an open invitation to his friends any time a game is on. For the opener he had about ten people down for his own home game, and these days for any given match he usually has three to five mates around.

Until recently, Ms Gulldhe was quite the opposite, he says. She hadn't much cared for football until the couple were in Sweden while her compatriots were squaring off against Germany.

"She hated football. I had to work really hard to get her involved, I was like 'come on be a little bit patriotic'.

When Sweden lost to Germany she didn't speak to me for an hour," said Joe Lipscombe. Chris Whiteoak / The National
When Sweden lost to Germany she didn't speak to me for an hour," said Joe Lipscombe. Chris Whiteoak / The National

"While we were in Sweden we went out and bought some shirts, and bought some for my nephews — who aren't even old enough to know what Sweden is. We watched the game at the airport and it was amazing. She got really emotional and now it's completely changed. She's so into her team, she's screaming and loving it."

Which is where things might get interesting for the upcoming clash. While Mr Lipscombe is adamant that England is going to walk away victors, he's not sure what Ms Gulldhe's outlook on the game is. In fact, they've barely talked about it as they're well aware how awkward things might get.

"We're at a bit of a crossroads," he says.

"When Sweden lost to Germany she didn't speak to me for an hour."

While Mr Lipscombe isn't entirely sure where they'll be watching the game, he thinks Ms Gulldhe might even head back to Sweden to watch it — such is her newfound love for the sport.

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Read more:

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"I don't think we can watch it together. What happens if all my friends are cheering on England and then we eliminate Sweden? And what happens if they beat us, we'll have five or six English guys crying in front of her.

"Hopefully if she does that we can have the house here and I can take down the Sweden stuff."

Whatever happens though, Mr Lipscombe is fairly confident they'll be able to put aside their differences once the final whistle is blown. Hopefully.

"I said to her if this happens if we go through, we'll love each other no matter what but we need to set some ground rules here — no swearing at each other, no ones allowed to gloat if they win, but I can't be expected to hold back my emotions if England get into their first semi final in my lifetime."