Sweden is a well organized, efficient team with a high work-rate that will never make a game easy for anyone. Ranked 23rd by FIFA, Sweden is one of the dark-horses for the tournament.
Sweden qualified through one of the toughest groups, featuring France, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, and Belarus. Conceding just 9 goals along the way, while netting a group best 26, Sweden finished second to France.
Facing Italy in the playoffs a Jacob Johansson goal was enough to win the first leg. Going to Italy with a 1-0 didn’t seem like it would be nearly enough. But never underestimate this Swedish team as they held the Italians to a 0-0 draw to book their place in the finals. Holding a tough Italian team scoreless over 180 minutes showed just how organized this team is.
Sweden Squad Outlook
Goalkeepers: Robin Olsen, Karl-Johan Johnsson, Kristoffer Nordfeldt
Defenders: Mikael Lustig, Victor Nilsson-Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson, Ludwig Augustinsson, Filip Helander, Pontus Jansson, Emil Krafth
Midfielders: Emil Forsberg, Albin Ekdal, Viktor Claesson, Gustav Svensson, Sebastian Larsson, Jimmy Durmaz, Oscar Hiljemark, Marcus Rohden
Forwards: Marcus Berg, Ola Toivonen, John Guidetti, Isaac Kiese-Thelin
Squad Talk: There was talk of Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming out of retirement for one last hurrah on the big stage. Thankfully Janne Andersson kept with the players that got Sweden to the Finals. There aren’t a lot of star names in the Sweden squad but they are a very cohesive unit and will give everything for each other.
Regular viewers of English League football will recognise a few names. Victor Lindelof has had a particularly underwhelming season at Manchester United. Seb Larsson was once a darling of the Premier League at Sunderland, where he put together some outstanding performances. He is now on the back-end of a good career.
However, as a group of players, many are finding limited playing time for their club sides. The aforementioned Lindelof has struggled to get on the field, Marcus Berg plays in Abu Dhabi, Toivonen is mostly on the bench at Toulose. Martin Olsson was just relegated from the Premier League with Swansea, although his personal performances were largely solid.
The Quiet Swedish Talisman
Marcus Berg is now the talisman of this team, top-scoring with 8 goals during qualification. He’s not the media savvy, glamorous player Ibrahimovic, but he fits much more comfortably in the team first approach Sweden now lives by.
Choosing to ply his trade in Abu Dhabi, with Al Ain, was a strange choice but Berg has all the ability to be a star at this World Cup. With 25 goals in 21 games in the league for Al Ain, Berg definitely comes into the tournament in good form. Physical and 6’2″, he scored 95 in 151 for Panathinaikos before moving to Abu Dhabi. Berg is a proven handful in Europe and is well suited to lead the line against the likes of Mexico and South Korea.
Janne Andersson took over the Swedish National team at a time when they hadn’t qualified for the last 2 finals. Immediately instilling team first tactics, high energy, and high work-rate tactics he has made an immediate impact. He rose to prominence by winning the Allsvenskan with tiny Norrkoping in 2015.
Andersson further asserted his team first style by refusing to consider Ibrahimovic for a recall after Qualifying for the finals. Of the Ibrahimovic situation, he said, “He was not going to be in the team after the European Championship, and I respected him. If you rejected the team, I do not think you should come back. I respect what he said and those who said ‘yes’. He has not called me, but he’s definitely not included in the plans for the World Cup.”
Likely Group Finish: 2nd
The Swedes will fancy their chances in this group. Minnows South Korea are hard working, but probably lack the threat up front. They will lose to Germany but have a good chance of beating Mexico in a win and go through final group game.
Lazy Fan Fact:
Sweden’s best finish was in 1958 when they lost 5-2 in the final to Brazil