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Sweden World Cup Team Preview: The Almost There's of Football

(All photos courtesy of Kristian Moe)

When the words Sweden, women, and football come to mind, trophies and gold medals are not the first thought. It’s bronzes and silvers, memories of losing finals, of almost there's. Looking back on Sweden’s history in major tournaments it consists of three World Cup bronze medals, a World Cup silver back in 2003, back-to-back Olympic silvers, one Euro bronze medal (before there were no more third-place matches in the Euros), three Euro silver medals, and that one singular time back in 1984 when Sweden won the first ever women’s European Championship. One gold medal is all they have across all major competitions for a team who has been in the top ten almost the entire time Fifa rankings have existed.

Two years ago at the 2020 Olympics, Sweden had that gold medal in the palm of their hand, but it slipped out of their grasp. It was their tournament to lose, quickly becoming the favorites after defeating the world champions, USA, 3-0 in their first match. It all came down to long-time captain Caroline Seger, who has been trying to win gold for her country for so many years. All the blaugrana needed was to hear the swish of the net echo throughout the empty stadium. Only there was no swish just cheers from Canada. While Canada would have their next penalty saved, Sweden would still go on to lose the shootout. Bitter tears rolled down the cheeks of Swedish players as the silver medals were placed around their necks.

Most recently Sweden had a disappointing semifinals exit to eventual Euro champions, England, in an embarrassing 3-1 loss. The favorites once again, were just almost there. In what is likely the legendary Caroline Seger’s last major tournament for Sweden, will she finally be able to bring home victory to a country that has almost tasted victory a few too many times?

Coach: Peter Gerhardsson

Gerhardsson has been the coach for Sweden since 2017 following his long managerial and playing career in the Swedish leagues. Coming after the legendary Pia Sundhage, he diverged from the standard Swedish defensive style of play transforming Sweden into an attacking powerhouse. He’s led Sweden to a World Cup bronze and Olympic silver medal. But lately, Sweden hasn’t been doing as well. Seven years is a very long time to manage one national team, most teams would have changed managers at least once in that time, so maybe it’s time for him to go. His contract is up after the 2025 Euros but if he fails to medal for a second tournament in a row with the impressive squad he has, it might be best to let him go.

Squad list:

Goalkeepers: Tove Enblom (Orebro), Jennifer Falk (BK Häcken), Zecira Musovic (Chelsea)

Defenders: Jonna Andersson (Hammarby), Nathalie Björn (Everton), Magdalena Eriksson (Bayern München), Amanda Itestedt (Paris Saint-Germain), Hanna Lundkvist (Atletico Madrid), Anna Sandberg (BK Häcken), Linda Sembrant (Juventus)

Midfielders: Filippa Angeldahl (Manchester City), Kosovare Asllani (AC Milan), Hanna Bennison (Everton), Lina Hurtig (Arsenal), Elin Rubensson (Hacken), Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (Chelsea), Olivia Schough (Rosengård), Caroline Seger (Rosengård)

Forwards: Stina Blackstenius (Arsenal), Sofia Jakobsson (San Diego Wave), Madelen Janogy (Hammarby), Rebecka Blomqvist (Wolfsburg), Fridolina Rolfö (Barcelona).

Best player: Fridolina Rolfö

To find the last time a male Swede played for Barcelona one has to go all the way back to 2011 when Zlatan Ibrahimović played there. To find the last time a woman has played for Barcelona one only has to look at the current team. Fridolina Rolfö largely stayed under the radar until she moved to Barcelona, but she was just as good the rest of the time. An outstanding 2021 Olympics is what really put her name on the map. even called her the star of the tournament and since then she has continued to be a star. Winning many trophies with Barcelona most recently a champions league.

Versatility, power, and reliability are three words to describe Rolfö. She started out as a left winger having played there for most of her career but she can be utilized anywhere on the frontline. When Kosovare Asllani was out injured during the second half of last year Gerhardsson said Rolfö would be starting as the 10 during her absence. Since joining Barcelona she has been playing full-time as a left-back for them, adding another position to her arsenal. She should play on favorited left wing in the tournament but this gives Gerhardsson lots of options if need be. Many players who have played with Rolfö have said her shot is one of the hardest. She also is very tall and strong, allowing her the ability to easily win back balls and shake off defenders. Very rarely does she have a bad game. Sure she’s not world-class every game but that doesn’t mean she’s poor, which seldom happens. This makes her a player Sweden can always count on and one of the most important to the team.

Player to watch: Filippa Angeldahl

While many have heard the name Filippa Angeldahl most can’t tell you anything about her other than she’s at Manchester City and is Swedish. Her game goes largely unnoticed due to the lack of playing time at Manchester City. But after this tournament, many more will know her name.

She has been in great form for City managing to fight her way into the starting eleven, which includes scoring a very important WSL game against Chelsea. She just missed out on the 2019 world cup but managed to make the squad for the 2021 Olympics where she cemented herself as a starter in Sweden’s midfield. The 2022 Euros is where she really was able to shine helping to dictate the midfield for Sweden. With long-standing captain Caroline Seger nearing retirement and dealing with injuries Angeldahl will have to step in to take her place.

Group stage head to head:

In a group of Italy, Argentina, and South Africa, Sweden are looking like the clear favorites to top their group. None of these teams have had any recent success on a world stage, unlike Sweden. Italy will pose the toughest problem with Sweden having only beat Italy 1 out of the three times they have played each other, including a group stage loss at the 2017 Euros. Sweden and Argentina played each other once back in 2008 with Sweden getting the 1-0 win. While Argentina have been in good form, there’s a big difference between beating Venezuela and New Zealand, then drawing or losing to Denmark, Norway, and Germany, so it is likely Sweden will win. It would appear Sweden have played South Africa four times, winning three out of four and drawing in the most recent one. Although, South Africa could be tough to beat coming off of last years run to the WAFCON finals.



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