WC Countdown: Group F – Sweden

Onto the last team in the last group, which is Sweden! This is where I’m from so please excuse any potential bias. All jokes aside, this preview will wrap up my WWC Wednesdays, which I’ve taken so much pleasure in doing, and we’ll now be looking forward to an amazing month of football in France!

Sweden is a consistent contender at the World Cup, and haven’t missed a single tournament so far. They’ve always done quite well, but haven’t been very consistent. They’ve ended up with two bronze, one at the inaugural edition in China in 1991, as well as in Germany in 2011 and they’ve also hosted it once, in 1995. They struggled for good results at the last World Cup and the Euros 2017 wasn’t their year either, but they did grab a silver medal at the Olympics 2016, having beaten both the USA and Brazil on their way to the final against Germany.

Their qualification route to the World Cup was quite straightforward, and they won all of their matches except for a loss against Ukraine, but they beat Hungary, Croatia and Denmark to qualify for the tournament.

The Swedish team tends to play and exist in a very collective aura, meaning that they do not really have any players that stand out from the crowd as extraordinary, but their strength rather lies in the fact that they play well together, especially since the very unfortunate retirement of Lotta Schelin, one of the most outstanding forwards in Sweden but also in the rest of Europe. But even so, there are some cogs in the team worth mentioning. Stina Blackstenius is the young and energetic forward, with three goals in seven appearances during the qualifying, who was the top scorer in the U-19 World Cup four years ago and the only goalscorer in that quarterfinal victory against the US who also got a goal against Germany in the final. Other attacking players to keep an eye out for are Olivia Schough, Sofia Jacobsson, 21-year-old Julia Zigiotti-Olme and of course – Kosovare Asllani. Kosse, as she’s called, is the creative force that Sweden can rely on in the midfield, and she’s going to be an important source of goals.

Sweden women's national football team
Celebrating after beating Brazil at the Olympics, source

They also have a very strong defence, led by 34-year-old Nilla Fischer who still manages to perform on a consistently high level. Sweden only conceded twice in their qualifying and for her club, VFL Wolfsburg, she helped keep 15 clean sheets in the past season. Another rock in the Swedish defence is goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. The 36-year-old is going to her fifth World Cup as the starting goalkeeper and it is thanks to her steady composure that Sweden can keep up their high-pressure playing style. She’s a good decision maker and her experience weighs very heavy here.

Peter Gerhardsson is the coach of the team since 2017 when he took over for Pia Sundhage. A former player himself, he represented several Swedish clubs playing as an attacker, before going into the role as a coach. He has previously managed several clubs, most notably BK Häcken, a male team in the top flight of Swedish football, for seven years before taking the job for the women’s national team. Gerhardsson seems to favour his team to play a 3-4-2-1, inviting that pressing style Sweden likes to play.

The Swedish squad played a few friendlies last autumn, notably beating England and Norway, but lost 0-1 to Italy. They also took part in the Algarve Cup in March, beating Switzerland but losing to Portugal and Canada which saw them end up in fourth place in the tournament. Their biggest clash in the group stages is without a doubt going to be against the US. The two teams have met on five occasions, which makes this game the most recurring one in the WC history, and Sweden won their last meeting as the two of them met in the quarterfinals of the Olympics in 2016. The Swedes beat them and Hope Solo went on a rant calling the team ‘cowards’.

That’s a wrap on the last team in the last group, and now all we have to do is wait for the whole thing to kick off! You can never count Sweden out, but undoubtedly a lot depends on what result they can get from their meeting with the Americans. Do you think the Swedes have what it takes? Let us know in the comment section!

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