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Euro 2022 Team Preview: Sweden- Can the favorites actually win?

It was a hot day in Tokyo, Japan as the legendary Caroline Seger had the chance to win her first major trophy with Sweden. If she scored a penalty kick then Sweden would win the Olympics. We all know how that penalty kick turned out. For Sweden fans, it is stuck in their minds, never forgotten, as they watched the ball sail over the crossbar. Sweden went on to lose the penalty shootout and lose the Olympics. Defeat still hangs in the minds of fans and players alike, after such a promising tournament, one where Sweden was almost sure to win. A 3-0 win against the USA in the first match was shocking to most of the world apart from Sweden fans who had seen this coming. In fact, Sweden should have beat the USA earlier that year in March if it wasn’t for a late penalty call for the USA, leaving the match as a 1-1 draw. Somehow Sweden still went into the Olympics as an underdog, but this tournament is different.


Sweden is no longer the underdogs that they were in 2021, this year they are one of the favorites. Coming off of a World Cup bronze in 2019, and a silver medal at the Olympics in 2021, people have started to take notice and they are rightfully favorites. Since their loss in the Olympics, Sweden has only lost or drawn one game and that was a draw with Ireland in World Cup qualifying where they didn’t start their best XI. But they still managed to draw with a fully fit Ireland, one many were surprised to not see qualify for the Euros. The real question for this tournament is can Sweden ignore the narrative of favorites and just play the game we all know they can.


Sweden has many things going for them in this tournament the main of which is the duality of their squad. Being able to play in a 4-3-3, 3-4-3, or a 5-2-3-1 allows them to be extremely versatile and play to the other team's weakness rather than just their own strengths. Many of Sweden’s players as well are very versatile. Fridolina Rolfö is the most recent addition, in that she played as a left-back/left wing-back for Barcelona this season, a place she had never played while also playing a few games as a striker in comparison to her regular position at left wing. As seen during the Olympic final she can play on the right, as well as she played as Sweden’s 10 during Kosovare Asllani’s absence earlier this year. All of this is while holding her spot as one of the best left-wingers in the world. In her last season at Wolfsburg, there was a game where she played as a left-winger, striker, and 10 all in the same game. Some other notable versatile players include Magdalena Eriksson, who can play as a centre-back and left-back, Nathalie Björn, who can play in midfield or defense, and captain Caroline Seger, who can play anywhere in the midfield.



Sweden winning the 2022 Algarve Cup. Photo: Jorge Guerrero


Squad


Goalkeepers: Jennifer Falk (Häcken), Hedvig Lindahl (Atletico Madrid), Zecira Musovic (Chelsea)


Defenders: Jonna Andersson (Hammarby), Nathalie Björn (Everton), Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea), Hanna Glas (Bayern Munich), Amanda Ilestedt (PSG), Emma Kullberg (Brighton), Amanda Nildén (Juventus), Linda Sembrant (Juventus)


Midfielders: Filippa Angeldahl (Manchester City), Kosovare Asllani (AC Milan), Hanna Bennison (Everton), Elin Rubensson (Häcken), Caroline Seger (Rosengård)


Forwards: Stina Blackstenius (Arsenal), Rebecka Blomqvist (Wolfsburg), Lina Hurtig (Juventus), Sofia Jakobsson (San Diego Wave), Fridolina Rolfö (Barcelona), Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (Häcken), Olivia Schough (Rosengård)


Last year’s Champions League saw 20 out of the 23 players in Sweden’s squad. While teams like Rosengård didn’t make the group stages they still played in qualifying. Even if you emit the Rosengård players it’s still 18 out of 23, very impressive numbers. This year there will be fewer as Sofia Jakobsson joined first place NWSL team San Diego Wave, and Kosovare Asllani joined AC Milan who just missed out on qualification.


Some notable names that missed out on the 23 are Washington Spirit’s Julia Roddar, Hammarby’s Madelen Janogy, Everton’s top scorer last season Anna Anvegard, and Brighton’s Julia Ziggioti. All four of whom were a part of Sweden’s 2019 World Cup side and three were a part of the 2021 Olympics squad.


The main question was who should they take as the seventh forward. Rebecka Blomqvist is the player that was chosen despite having picked up an ankle injury towards the end of the season and it was questionable if she would be fit in time. Janogy and Anvegard scored more goals than Blomqvist, and have more national team experience but Gerhardsson prefers Blomqvist. Blomqvist trains in what is assumed to be a more challenging environment at Wolfsburg compared to Everton or Hammarby which is likely why Gerhardsson took her. As well as Blomqvist’s best position is left-winger and Lina Hurtig the usual back-up left-winger is also the back-up striker so if he doesn’t want to play Blackstenius and Rolfö then he has a left-winger available or he can play Olivia Schough who has been impressive for Rosengård lately. Blomqvist also has a leg up on Janogy and Anvegard because she has proven she can play as a striker or 10 if needed.


Best XI/formation


Although Sweden is versatile and can play in many formations it is likely they will play in 4-3-3, the formation they have been using the most lately. But with Sweden’s depth, it will be interesting to see who starts.


Best XI: Hedvig Lindahl, Hanna Glas, Amanda Ilestedt, Magdalena Eriksson, Amanda Nildén, Caroline Seger, Filippa Angeldahl, Kosovare Asllani, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Stina Blackstenius, Fridolina Rolfö


Predicted XI: Hedvig Lindahl, Hanna Glas, Amanda Ilestedt, Magdalena Eriksson, Jonna Andersson, Caroline Seger, Filippa Angeldahl, Kosovare Asllani, Sofia Jakobsson, Stina Blackstenius, Fridolina Rolfö


Sweden’s best IX would be to play pretty much their regular lineup with the inclusion of Amanda Nildén and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd instead of Jonna Andersson and Sofia Jakobsson, but it’s very likely Andersson and Jakobsson will start.


Andersson struggled at Chelsea this season. She had one poor performance in the 2020-2021 Champions league against Bayern so she was benched for Jess Carter and was never really given the chance to prove herself again which is why she left Chelsea at the end of the season and is now back in Sweden with Hammarby. Andersson is a player who plays well when she’s confident in her playing. Being benched and missing what could have been a winning penalty in the Olympic finals really destroyed her confidence and hopefully, she will become the player she was again. This is where Nildén could step in boasting many amazing performances for Juventus this year even on the Champions League level. She’s a young defender but plays like she’s years older and is very consistent. She could provide the extra stability that Sweden has been looking for in that left-back position.


Jakobsson thought she was starting a great new chapter in her career when she moved to Bayern Munich at the start of last season. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t break into the starting XI. She struggled to even break into the matchday squad. When she played she put in great performances and continued to perform well at an international level. Even though Bayern struggled with the right-wing position all season it seemed as if the coach refused to play her, so in the winter she ask for her contract to be terminated and she moved to the newly formed San Diego Wave of the NWSL. Since moving she has been great for the Wave but Kaneryd has been just that much better. Lately, she has been killing it in the Damallsvenskan and has easily been the best player in the league so far this season. With four goals in the league, she brings an extra flair to the right-wing position that Jakobsson doesn’t have.



Filippa Angeldahl will be a player to watch for Sweden. Photo: @Svenskfotboll on Twitter


Player to watch


The player to watch for on Sweden is Filippa Angeldahl. She had a disappointing season for Manchester City. One that had many fans questioning Manchester City’s manager. While City has a lot of midfield depth it isn’t enough to explain why she only played 106 minutes in the second half of the season. One would think that a player who consistently starts in the best European national team would have played more than that. She went four weeks without playing time for City in the second half of the season and she wasn’t injured. It took her scoring a hattrick against Georgia in World Cup qualifying to get playing time again. For Sweden, she has been consistently in the starting XI and started every game of the Olympics. This tournament will be her chance to show Manchester City what they missed out on last season and prove she is worthy of the starting XI for next season.



Magdalena Eriksson and Fridolina Rolfö with their olympic medals. Photo: Fridolina Rolfö on Instagram


Star players


Sweden has many players who could be considered stars. The two main ones will be Magdalena Eriksson and Fridolina Rolfö. Since becoming the captain of Chelsea Eriksson has started to become one of the more star players on the team. Widely regarded as a great leader, Eriksson is poised to become the next captain of Sweden once Seger retires. In the 2020-2021 season, she led Chelsea to a Champions League final. She is the head of Sweden’s backline and is what really keeps the defense as organized as it is. Last season she kept 20 clean sheets across all competitions at a club and national team level.


Fridolina Rolfö only rose to stardom this year. In fact, when she was announced as a Barcelona player many fans questioned the signing saying she wasn’t of their caliber. After an insane showing at the Olympics, where she had three goals and two assists, one of which was the winning goal to put Sweden through to the finals, people were starting to take notice. But it wasn’t until she made the switch from left-wing to left-back for Barcelona that people really saw her as a star. Last season she scored 18 goals across all competitions for club and country many of which came from her playing left-back.


Unexpected player


Amanda Nildén rose to the scene this year in Serie A. No one knew her name. She had a two year stint at Brighton where she didn’t get the playing time she would have liked so then she moved back to Sweden to play for Eskilstuna. Somehow she caught the attention of Juventus, likely through youth national teams, and in 2021 she moved to the Serie A champions. Quickly she earned herself a place in the starting 11 at right-back but can play on the left as well. She even made the Serie A team of the year. While Nildén might be a surprise she is more than deserving to be here.


Also, an interesting story coming out of the Nildén household is that Amanda’s sister Matilda made the Sweden squad for the U-19 Euros. So far she has made one appearance in Sweden’s match against England in the midfield.


Prediction


Looking at the group stage Sweden is set to face The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Portugal. Recently in the Algarve Cup Sweden played Portugal where they won 4-0 without starting their best XI, so that’s a team they already know they are capable of beating. Switzerland has had a poor start losing 7-0 to Germany in the first friendly and losing 4-0 to England in the second one, so Sweden shouldn’t have too many issues with them either. The Netherlands would be the team to worry about but lately, the team has been having a few issues losing 5-1 to England and only winning 2-0 to Finland. The Netherlands had a decent showing at the Olympics where they went out in the quarter-finals to the USA. But Sweden beat the USA easily so The Netherlands will be more of a challenge but it’s very likely Sweden will top their group.


If Sweden tops their group it’s likely they will end up playing Italy in the quarter-finals. Recently they played Italy in the finals of the Algarve Cup where they won on penalties after a 1-1 draw, but that was another game where they didn’t play their best IX. Players like Rolfö, Eriksson, and Glas didn’t play at all.


In the semis, they will face either the winner of Group A or the runner-up from Group B. This is where it could get harder. Last time Sweden played the likely winners of Group A, England, was in the World Cup bronze medal match where Sweden won 2-1. Otherwise, they are likely to play one of Spain, Germany, or Denmark teams they haven’t faced in a while.


Sweden’s chances to make it to the final look very likely which is why they are one of the favorites but it is all going to come down to minor details such as their gameplans, managing minutes, and staying injury-free among other things. So to answer the question yes Sweden can win and the odds are in their favor.


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