Before Euro 2020 this summer, Sports Mole is assessing the chances of the Swedes, who will take part in their fifth European Championship in a row.
After falling at the first hurdle at the last three European Championships, Sweden hope this is their year to finally escape the group stage and make it into the knockout round Euro 2020.
The Blagult were once an impressive nation on the international stage, reaching three World Cup semi-finals and one final between the late 1930s and the mid-1990s and, as the host nation, the semi-finals of the Euro 1992. Century to repeat.
The trust of the Swedish fans grew earlier this year as the national icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his return from retirement, but a knee injury has since excluded the 39-year-old from the competition.
Nonetheless, this Swedish team without Zlatan – who are ranked 18th in the world by FIFA – still has a lot of quality Janne Anderssonand hopes are high that they will get out of their group and possibly reach the quarter-finals again, as they did at the 2018 World Cup.
Here, Sports mole offers an in-depth assessment of Sweden’s chances at Euro 2020
Sweden qualified as the third seeded team for Euro 2020 and was drawn in Group E with Spain, Poland and Slovakia.
The Blagult already know Spain, had played against them twice in qualifying, but only scored one point in both games.
Andersson’s men, however, are less familiar with both Poland and Slovakia. Sweden last faced Poland in June 2004 and have lost each of their last five games, while in their history they have only played five games against Slovakia, won three games and drew the other two.
Sweden will most likely fight Poland for second place in Group E and the final game against them could prove to be a crucial tie that will determine their fate.
14th June: Spain vs. Sweden (8 p.m., La Cartuja Stadium, Seville)
18th of June: Sweden vs. Slovakia (2 p.m., Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg)
23rd June: Sweden vs. Poland (5 p.m., Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg)
HOW YOU WERE QUALIFIED
Sweden impressed during their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, finishing second in Group F after collecting 21 points from their 10 games, falling five points behind group winners Spain.
The Blagult opened their account positively with a 2-1 win against Romania in Solna, before equalizing in the 96th minute Joshua King saved a point for Scandinavian rivals Norway in an entertaining 3-3 draw against Sweden.
Andersson’s men rebounded with a comfortable 3-0 win over European minnows Malta before suffering an equal-score loss to Spain in what turned out to be their only qualifying loss.
Then a 1-1 draw against Norway was caught between two 4-0 away wins on the Faroe Islands and Malta before they were able to take almost all three points in the second leg against Spain, just for Rodrigo to equalize in the 92nd minute.
The Swedes ended their season with 2-0 and 3-0 wins against Romania and the Faroe Islands respectively and were four points ahead of their closest rival Norway, who had to be content with third place.
It’s fair to say that Sweden’s form has been mixed since qualifying for Euro 2020. Andersson’s men lost all but one of their Nations League games in League A Group 3 between September and November 2020. The Blagult fought for the competition with France, Croatia and the European champions Portugal and were then relegated from the group.
Since then, their form has improved as they have won each of their last five games, despite the fact that the quality of their opponents has been significantly weaker compared to their Nations League rivals.
Sweden beat Georgia and Kosovo in their first two World Cup qualifiers without conceding a goal before three more wins in friendly matches against Estonia, Finland and Armenia give the squad confidence in their first game of Euro 2020.
The Blagult have scored in eight of the last nine international matches in all competitions and have scored at least twice in five of these matches.
Goalkeeper: Robin Olsen (Everton), Karl-Johan Johnsson (Copenhagen), Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Genclerbirligi)
Defender: Mikael Funny (AIK), Victor Lindelof (Manchester United), Andreas Granqvist (Helsingborg), Martin Olsson (BK hoes), Ludwig Augustinsson (Werder Bremen), Filip Helander (Ranger), Emil Krafth (Newcastle United), Pontus Jansson (Brentford), Marcus Danielson (Dalian Yifang)
Midfield player: Sebastian Larsson (AIK), Albin Ekdal (Sampdoria), Emil Forsberg (Leipzig), Gustav Svensson (Guangzhou), Ken Sema (Wattford), Viktor Claesson (Krasnodar), Mattias Svanberg (Bologna), Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus), Kristoffer Olsson (Krasnodar), Jens-Lys Cajuste (Central Jutland)
Forward: Marcus Berg (Krasnodar), Alexander Isaac (real company), Robin Quaison (Mainz), Jordan Larsson (Spartak Moscow)
STAR PLAYER – Alexander Isak
With Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic absent from this year’s tournament, many expectations will fall on the shoulders of 21-year-old Alexander Isak.
The striker goes into Euro 2020 after an impressive season in front of goal for Spanish club Real Sociedad, scoring 17 goals in 34 LaLiga games.
Isak, who was born in Stockholm, began his professional career at the local club AIK, but was quickly taken over by Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund after only one year in the senior national team at the age of 17. At the same age, Isak became Sweden’s youngest ever goalscorer and scored in a 6-0 win against Slovakia in 2017.
However, the striker struggled to break into the German club’s first team and was subsequently loaned to Dutch club Willem II in 2019, where he scored 13 goals in just 16 games. That form alerted Real Sociedad, who later that summer decided to pay a relatively modest fee to sign Isak, where he has since improved his game and become one of the La Liga top scorer.
Isak, who has already made 20 international appearances and six goals, is a tall, physically and technically gifted center-forward who has been Sweden’s greatest talent since Ibrahimovic. The youngster hopes to live up to the hype and impress at his first major tournament.
MANAGER – Janne Andersson
After a disappointing exit at Euro 2016 in the group stage Erik HamrenSeven years with the Swedish national team came to an end and he was replaced by Jan Olof ‘Janne’ Andersson, a seasoned coach who will take the reins this summer.
Before the 58-year-old moved to management, he played in Sweden’s lower leagues and spent eleven years at Alets IK, with whom he was the club’s record scorer. He ended his career at Laholms FK, where he was a season long player-coach before being appointed full-time coach.
After five years in office, Andersson then moved to Halmstads BK and led the club to second place in the Swedish championship in 2004, winning the coach of the year award. In 2015 he celebrated his first league title with Norrköping, the club’s first league triumph in 26 years, before becoming Swedish national coach a year later.
Andersson’s first campaign at a major tournament was successful and led the Blagult to the top of their 2018 World Cup group, ending up ahead of Mexico, South Korea and, surprisingly, Germany. They prevailed against Switzerland in the round of 16 before losing to England in the quarter-finals.
For the past four years, Andersson has struggled to strike a balance between youth and experience, but he believes his 26-man squad this time around has the quality to make it to the final stages of Euro 2020.
RECORD OF THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP
Best finish: Semi-finalists (1992)
Sweden made their European Championship debut in 1992 and went straight to the finals as hosts.
The national team had previously underperformed for more than a decade, until Tommy Svensson‘s young team managed to lead a challenging group with England, France and eventual winners Denmark. The Blagult made it to the semi-finals before losing 3-2 to Germany.
Four years later, Sweden failed to qualify for Euro 1996, but they have played in each of the last five tournaments since then. In four of the last five finals, however, they were eliminated in the group stage and reached the quarter-finals in 2004.
Sweden haven’t won a game in either of the last two tournaments, but Andersson hopes his luck will turn at Euro 2020.
With a young squad and an experienced coach, the Swedes hope to find the right formula for the fourth time to escape the group stage.
Three-time champions Spain are strong favorites to top Group E, so Andersson’s men will battle Poland for second place.
The Swedes may have the extra quality in their squad to push their way from the Poles to the top two, although their campaign may end if they clash with the Group D runners-up in a difficult knockout round of 16, which may be either Be England or Croatia.
JUDGMENT: Last 16