IntroThe Euros are merely days away and football fans across Europe are bracing themselves to join together, put club allegiances to one side and cheer on their nation throughout the 51-match competition spanning from the 11th June to 11th July.
For some, the delay to the tournament has allowed several key players to recover from injuries and reclaim their place in the squads, or given youngsters the opportunity for more experience and development. Contrastingly, some sides are now much weaker with key men suffering fatigue, injury, and possibly even international retirement (more on that later).
No matter each sides situation, the competition as a whole looks stacked full of talent and exciting matchups. I know that personally, whether it’s England Vs Scotland, France Vs Germany or even Ukraine Vs North Macedonia, I’m bracing myself to take in all 51 games and hunker down in front of my TV screen for the next 4 and a bit weeks.
As my excitement has been building for the Euro’s, I have jumped at this opportunity from The FM Network to create a preview of one of the nations competing this summer.
While I must preface this post with an acknowledgement that my existing knowledge of the Swedish footballing setup was lacking prior to writing this, I have done my research and have hopefully put together a comprehensive preview of the Swedish side as they enter and embrace their post-Zlatan era.
In the preview, I will be talking about Sweden as a country, their footballing history, the squad and likely playing style this summer, their chances of making a real dent in the tournament this summer and of course some of the key men to look out for in Football Manager.
So, without further ado, let’s have a deep dive into the Swedish national side for this summers’ Euro’s and perhaps why they might just become your second favourite side for the tournament.
Visit SwedenSweden, if you weren’t already aware, is a country located in Northern Europe, forming part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. With a population of 10.4 million spanning across the 450,295 square kilometres, it is listed as Europe’s fifth largest country.
With stunning picturesque views of mountains, forests, some of their 95,000 lakes and their incredible coastline, Sweden is a bucket-list destination for many travellers looking for a unique holiday experience. With a fascinating history from prehistoric times, the Viking age, and the kingdom/empire of Sweden, it is a nation filled with tradition, history, and a wonderful culture.
Being the birthplace of Alfred Nobel who inspired the Nobel Prize, Sweden is filled with academic culture, incredible architecture and even more modern developments of their music industry which is the 3rd biggest exporter in the World behind the US and UK.
Additionally, there is a growing demand for Nordic tv and film productions. Meanwhile, they are famed for their cuisine as they boast the invention of Cinnamon rolls and various fish-based dishes.
Finally, on a sporting level, Sweden has seen some great sports stars come through in their history, with half their population actively participating in a sporting activity, including 3 former tennis World no.1s, several ice hockey champions, boxing hall of famer Ingemar Johansson and of course a few famous footballing names which we will come onto shortly.
Hopefully, this brief section has enlightened some as to the wonderful nation of Sweden, and whether it’s Ikea, ABBA or Zlatan Ibrahimovic that comes to mind when you think of the country, there is so much more to this place, filled with great culture and a stunning place to visit and experience.
On The Pitch
In footballing terms, Sweden is obsessed with the game as it’s the nations no.1 sport in terms of viewership and participation. Despite this, it is one of the only sports that they have had limited success in, especially when compared to the other national sports of ice hockey and even tennis.
Looking back through time, there has been little to cheer about from the Swedish footballing perspective, as they have rarely been seen as a dominant force within the game, despite producing some of the game’s most extravagant and fascinating talents.
Going back to the 1950s, Swedish football hit it’s peak, with the nation claiming the runners up spot at the 6th World Cup in 1958, losing to Brazil 5-2 in the final.
Additionally, in this period, they were 3rd placed at the 1950 tournament, bronze medallists at the 1952 Olympics and most importantly, in arguably their biggest success, became gold medallists at the 1948 Olympics.
Aside from these successes, they have had 9 titles in the Nordic Football Championship, however this was abolished in 2001.
In the Euro’s tournaments, again there has been nothing to write home about particularly, aside from 1992 where they reached the semi-finals in their strongest performance in this tournament.
These historical accolades and successes have never managed to bring a full era or generation of success for Sweden in football, and although they have in more recent times produced some fantastic footballers, it has never seemed to click for the side as a whole, with the occasional superstar not having the support of the team around them.
I’m sure many could easily reel off several former greats for Sweden, such as Zlatan, Larsson and Nordqvist, however in the international game as we so often see, those individuals cannot win a tournament on their own.
As we will come onto shortly with the current squad, Sweden are actually beginning to enter a new generation without their talismanic figure they have relied on for so long, and this creates a youthful, exciting time for the side as the upcoming players are able to forge their own legacy and become as big as Zlatan and others who proceeded them.
Leaving behind the reliance on individuals for a team-focused aim may well allow Sweden to have a tournament run that their supporters have missed for decades.
To look back at their more recent tournament performances, we will firstly go back to the 2018 World Cup, in which they reached the quarter-final stage only to be knocked out from a confident England side, who despite leaving 2-0 winners, didn’t breeze past Sweden who themselves put up a decent fight.
Prior to this defeat, they had topped a group which many would have expected them to actually struggle in and possibly fail to even qualify, as they came up against the reigning champions Germany, an always underrated Mexico and South Korea who became a fan favourite.
Despite being in this fairly tough group, they picked up 2 wins which allowed them to top the group on goal difference. They opened with a 1-0 tight victory over South Korea thanks to a penalty mid-way through the second half, which was then followed by a narrow defeat to the Germans who scored the winner with the last kick of the game (but still finished last… sorry I couldn’t resist), and in their final group game they claimed the top-spot with a confident and comfortable 3-0 win over Mexico.
Their reward for finishing top was a knockout match against Switzerland where they edged the game 1-0 and made their way to that quarter-final match against England. With 5 different scorers from the 6 goals in the whole tournament, it had certainly become the beginning of the end of their Zlatan era and heavy reliance on the legendary striker.
A good run in this tournament showed what they are capable of even against big opponents, however looking at this tournament, it shows the frailty that Sweden have when coming up against opponents that are heavy favourites. From the Germany group defeat to the England loss in the quarters, when Sweden come up against big teams and need to sit back for most of the game, they often become exposed.
This struggle against ‘bigger’ opposition came to light again in the latest edition of the UEFA Nations League. After earning promotion to group A after their successes in 2018/19, they suffered massively after coming up against France, Portugal and Croatia in their group. In the 6 games they played, they lost 5, with their only victory being a narrow win over Croatia.
This provides us with another example of the Sweden side crumbling against the pressure of a big team, and although they deservedly earnt their place in the group, the players seem to expect to lose in these big games.
With their Euro 2020 opener against one of these ‘big’ teams in Spain, it may be a chance to shake off these demons, however they will need to begin taking big scalps in tournaments to move past the early knockout rounds.
In this group, they again had 5 different scorers for their 5 goals, again showing how they are without a talismanic striker or goalscorer, which although it is refreshing for the Swede’s, could be an issue if they are needing a leader or someone they can lean on when needing a goal late into a game.
Leading up to this summers’ tournament through the qualification campaign, they qualified fairly strong, finishing 2nd in their group, behind a dominant Spain side. In this group, they came up against the aforementioned Spain, Norway, Romania, Faroe Islands and Malta, and their record was strong having won 6, drawn 3 and lost only 1 to Spain in a 3-0 defeat.
They were quite free scoring in the qualifiers, as they bagged 23 from 6 games which is a strong showing a real determination against the lower-ranked sides. Despite all these wins and goals, what is most pleasing for the Swedish side was the 1-1 draw against Spain, for several reasons.
Firstly, they are obviously facing one-another in their opening match, and thus getting a decent result recently against Spain will give them some optimism, and secondly it is an important result as it breaks this apparent cycle of struggling against bigger nations in important matches.
We have mentioned several games in which they struggled when they’ve perhaps expected to lose, however this draw gives them some hope to compete with the bigger sides, and should they manage a repeat of this result on the 14th, they will be confident of qualifying through group E with ease.
Finally, it would be unfair for us not to fully acknowledge and appreciate what I believe to be Sweden’s greatest footballing talent, and I’m sure he would agree with me in saying that, Mr. Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
We will mention him shortly in the next section, however I simply cannot discuss the footballing history of Sweden without including a mention to the great striker, who is still regarded as one of the worlds’ finest at 39 years of age, and recently was a major catalyst for AC Milan’s return to the Champions League.
Whether it’s scoring remarkable goals, being a leader on the pitch, or filling the dressing room with confidence (or arrogance if you prefer), he simply is an incredible talent and character of the game.
Without Zlatan the game is missing the entertainment, charisma, and outlandish self-assurance that he provides. For club and country he has been a great servant and leader, and this Swedish side is without a doubt missing something with him not involved.
Also, let’s not forget the goal against England which I am sure still gives Joe Hart sleepless nights.
Making The CutGoing into this summer’s tournament, the Swedish team are under the management of Janne Andersson again, and since his arrival in the job in 2016, the Swedish side have actually shown signs of progress and development.
In qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, they broke an unwanted 12-year record of not qualifying for the tournament, and as mentioned previously had a fairly strong run, with their quarter-final place being the best performance since 1994.
From here, they had the promotion in the Nations League, and despite the subsequent relegation, it appears like Sweden may be stuck in the nether-zone between group A and B of the tournament.
With their qualification for Euro 2020, confidence in Andersson looks strong, with a content squad of players, he has managed any potential issues with the debate around Zlatan well, and where managing a situation with a character like Ibra could make a manager appear weak, he stood firm in his decision and in his selection he appears to be willing to navigate Sweden through their development of upcoming talents and thus aside from a disastrous showing this summer, I would predict he will remain in charge for next years’ World Cup also.
Andersson selected his side with no real shocks or surprises in the 26. There was potential controversy surrounding the aforementioned Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who seemingly declared himself available and ready for the competition earlier in the year, however with injury and fatigue, it appears that any potential sideshow with the legendary striker has subdued, and he remains retired from international competition.
This is arguably the best result for Andersson and the whole team, and despite the obvious talent that comes from having Zlatan in your team, it knocks the progression and development that they have been building since 2018 back to the start.
In the World Cup, people were surprised by the cohesion and lack of individualism in the squad which brought them their best result for over 2 decades. Having included Zlatan could have been beneficial to the young talents of Isak and Larsson, however it’s unlikely he’d be willing to sit on the sidelines as a cheerleader this summer.
Additionally, the fact that everybody has discussed the player not going, rather than the young talent on the plane goes to show the unwanted attention and discussion that can disrupt a cohesive team unit.
In the current selection, there is a great blend of youth and experience. With ages ranging from captain and vice-captain Andreas Granqvist and Sebastian Larsson who are 36 and 35 respectively, through to the 21-year-old prospect Isak, who with 6 goals from 21 caps is showing himself to be a real talent and could perhaps get himself on the market this summer.
Meanwhile there is experience in not just age, but in big games, with Lindelöf of Manchester United, Dejan Kulusevski who has broken into the Juventus first team in 2020 and even Pontus Jansson who has led his Brentford team to the Premier League in a gruelling yet successful season.
With several technically gifted talents such as Forsberg of RB Leipzig and the aforementioned Larsson and Kulusevski, Sweden will want to play a more attacking and technical game, with several outlets to the 6ft 4 Isak up top.
Although they previously have stuck to a counter-attacking style or defensive approach in previous tournaments, the Euro’s may see Sweden come out and attack.
Personally, I think they need to try and play the opponent, in that against the likes of Spain and later in the competition, use the defensive experience, however in their games against Poland and Slovakia, they must attack to avoid dropping points in these 2 fixtures.
There are several key men to watch out for this summer in the Sweden side, and some may just become household names should they lay down a marker in the tournament.
First up, we have the centre-back Lindelöf, probably the most notable name on the team sheet given his Manchester United pedigree and possibly next in line for the captaincy after Granqvist moves on.
Next up we have the aforementioned Isak, the Real Sociedad striker who bagged 17 goals in La Liga this season, and although he was sold by Dortmund in 2019, he may catch the attention of some top European sides this summer.
Additionally, there is the other previously discussed youngster, Kulusevski who is another player making a name for himself, making 35 appearances for Juventus, and shown himself as a strong, versatile player who can do just about anything from playing central midfield, out wide as a winger on either flank or even can push forward to centre-forward when needed. With strong technical ability, and impressive physical traits, he is sure to be the outlet for Sweden’s attacks along with Forsberg.
Finally, another key player who I think has gone under the radar, and may not even be a starter, given Granqvist’s experience and role as captain, is Pontus Jansson. The Brentford centre-back has massively impressed me over the last 2/3 seasons as he was integral to Leeds’ initial promotion charge on Bielsa’s arrival and has carried his leadership over to Brentford where he captained them to winning the playoffs.
He gives just about everything on the pitch, and he is a born leader who will command his defence and spur on those around him. Having watched Jansson and Lindelöf, I can see a great defensive partnership ready and waiting.
Lindelöf has serious talent but needs a partner who can organise him and ensure he is focussed and positioned, while Jansson is a leader who perhaps is occasionally erratic and could benefit from the man nicknamed ‘ice-man’ by his United teammates. Obviously, this would push the captain out of the side, however in this condensed schedule, rotation of the 3 centre-backs could be vital.
After looking at their 26-man squad and recent fixtures, I predict that they will change their tactical ideas and line-up depending on their opposition. This means that the squad for the Spain opener might not match the one against Slovakia or Poland, however I would personally go for a 4-4-2 formation, Olsen in goal, Krath Lindelöf Jansson and Augustinsson in defence, Forsberg Larsson Olsson and Kulusevski in midfield, Isak and Quaison up front.
I think focusing on their technical players in midfield will create plenty of opportunities for the strikers, and Isak should essentially become their target man that they focus all attacks at.
Group ESweden’s draw in the competition has admittedly been about as favourable as they could have hoped for, being matched up alongside Spain, Poland, and Slovakia. Spain are immediately the favourites to top the group, however with the other 3 sides, it could be a real battle between them.
The side finishing top will be faced with 3rd place from either group A,B,C or D while the 2nd spot will earn the country with a matchup against 2nd place in group D, which will likely be one of Croatia or England.
Coming up first against Spain could be either a positive or negative, as getting the toughest game done first may allow Sweden to spring a surprise result which gives them the confidence to sail through the remaining 2 games and have a real challenge to top the group.
Contrastingly, a heavy defeat in the opener will have them immediately on the back foot for the other 2 battles where they will be pushed to their limits. In the Spain fixture, the Swedes will be reliant on the resolute defence in the partnership mentioned previously of Lindelöf and Jansson as they face the likes of Morata, Torres and Olmo as the likely starting front 3 for Spain.
With this one being played in Seville, the Swedish side will immediately be faced with a tough opposition and hostile environment as fans will be hopefully welcomed into the stadium.
Sweden do have a fairly decent record against Spain throughout history, having won 3, drawn 5 and lost 6 of their 14 previous encounters, however in their most recent games from 2019, Spain won comfortable and drew the return fixture which may sit in the minds of some of the Swedish side.
The second match for Sweden comes 4 days later against a Slovakia side where Sweden will be favourites unless they put in a poor showing against Spain.
Should they manage a good result over the Spaniards, Sweden could almost guarantee qualification, however this one might be needed to simply build confidence and get points on the board.
Although Slovakia aren’t known to make things easy for their opponents, the Swede’s should have just about enough, and we may be able to see their attacking talents of Isak, Kulusevski and Jordan Larsson who will be following in his father’s footsteps.
Slovakia do have some big names in their side such as Marek Hamšík and Milan Škriniar who can, and will cause issues, however they are a side that have struggled to get a run of wins going in the past year.
In the final group game, we have potentially one of the games of the whole group stage, as Sweden take on Poland in what could determine qualification for either side in a winner-takes-all scenario.
These 2 nations are hard to separate, with both being around the same odds throughout the whole competition, and although Sweden perhaps have a stronger squad on paper, Poland have Lewandowski, and having the most in-form and possibly best striker in world football leading your side surely puts fear into the opposition.
Therefore, we go back to Sweden’s defence to see if they can contain the goalscoring machine who will be the centre of all Poland’s attacking phases. If they struggle to control him, we may see the game turn into chaos that makes brilliant viewing, with both sides trying to outscore the other.
This is perhaps me trying to wish the scenario into existence, and instead I expect Sweden to hunker down and play for a draw which will perhaps just be enough.
Sweden’s Group Fixtures;
Vs Spain (14th June KO 8pm)
Vs Slovakia (18th June KO 2pm)
Vs Poland (23rd June KO 5pm)
Looking through the 3 fixtures, I expect them to reach a minimum of 4 points which will see them qualifying possibly in either 2nd or 3rd depending on goal difference and other results, as I predict they will lose against a fairly decent Spanish side, win in a scrappy fixture against Slovakia and then possibly manage a draw or narrow win in the game against Poland which I believe will decide 2nd and 3rd place in the group.
Either way, with some tight matchups and possible underdog nations involved, this is a group that could surprise many with entertaining and well-fought matches.
Football ManagerNow this preview would lack all credibility if I didn’t include this section of my preview, looking at how the Swedish national side fare on Football Manager.
In FM21 there are several Swedish names to get the scout report on, and depending on the size of club, transfer and wage budget, there is a Swedish player out there for every club.
Starting off with the possible talismanic striker that is tipped to be the Zlatan replacement, Alexander Isak, the Real Sociedad striker who just looking at his stats is destined for Football Manager greatness.
With a value of £8million and a wage of £16,000 per week, he’s not one for the lower leagues, however with a club like Fulham, Newcastle or even at a top-level Championship side needing an attacking outlet this would be a bargain buy.
His attributes make excellent reading, with high stats in acceleration, technique, pace and flair, he contains all the attributes that make him a ‘one-to-watch’ this summer.
Secondly, we’ve picked out another player that we have spoken about in detail earlier, and this one is essentially a ready-made star for any club playing regularly in Europe.
Kulusevski is already making a name for himself at Juventus and his recent loan at Parma, which has resulted in the £23.5million valuation and earnt himself an £81,000 a week contract.
Certainly not one for the feint-hearted, however with immense flexibility and adaptability, he could be an all-round talent used at any major European side.
Although playing primarily as a winger, his key stats almost make him appear like a perfect no.10, however with the flexibility to move him mid-game, he’s a ‘Swiss army knife’ (if I may use the FM quote).
With Juventus beginning their rebuild, I wouldn’t be too surprised to be hearing more from the young Swede, and he may be a quality signing on this year’s Football Manager.
Finally, I have picked out a player who hasn’t actually had a mention yet in this piece, and hasn’t actually been picked for the Euro’s squad, however he has been making waves for his club and the U-21 setup in Sweden.
Anthony Elanga made his first team debut for Manchester United late in this years’ season, and he has already become a key player for the U-21 national side, at age 19. With his inexperience costing him a place in Sweden’s 26-man squad, I can strongly envisage him earning a spot in the World Cup next year should Sweden secure qualification.
Elanga is another young Swedish player that I expect to be hearing much more about in the coming season, and hopefully he either receives playing time at United or enjoys a successful loan spell elsewhere to build on his potential.
On FM21, he would be a fantastic player to bring into any League 1, Championship, or possibly even lower Premier League side, depending on finances and his willingness to sign.
Although perhaps not immediately as strong in attributes as the previous selections, Elanga has time on his side, and also shows great potential to grow and develop if managed well.
With great flair, pace and acceleration, he makes for an exciting winger on either side and could be used well in a counter attacking setup, whether in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 as we have seen him play in perfectly at Manchester United.
With a starting value of just £245,000 and a wage of £1000 a week, I would expect a permanent transfer to cost you much more, however as an investment, he can provide fantastic rewards.
Overall, Sweden looks to have a wealth of exciting young footballers coming through the ranks, many of whom idolised the talismanic figure of Zlatan, and that shows in their flair and exuberant footballing styles.
With many young attacking talents making waves at their clubs, it could easily transfer to the national side, and with several years for them to gel and create a cohesive unit, it’s an exciting time for Swedish football.
On FM, although not an area I previously looked at for young upcoming talents, I have been educated through writing this, and have a little list of players I’m going to look at for my current save, and I strongly recommend you to do the same.
OddsShould reading this piece make you believe that the almost impossible, could in fact be possible in Sweden lifting their first major silverware, then it’s worth a few quid if you feel so inclined.
Many UK bookmakers have the Swede’s at a long shot of around 80/1, level with group rivals Poland and ahead of the likes of Wales, Austria, and Scotland. While going all the way may be a stretch too far, for the boys in yellow to top group E, they are shorter odds of 6/1, again level with the Poland side and well behind clear favourites Spain.
More convincingly in the betting markets, they are 8/15 to qualify from the group, likely given the 3 possible qualification spots up for grabs.
In more niche markets, you could take your chances on various other markets relating to the Sweden sides’ campaign this summer, from goals scored to their method of elimination from the tournament.
In their opener against Spain, they are clear underdogs, but as we mentioned earlier, this may just suit them fine. For their following 2 group games, they are down as favourites for both, however should the result against Spain go against them, this may change significantly.
I feel almost obliged to mention the Leicester title win, or the Greece tournament win of 2004 when discussing the Swede’s chances in betting terms, however I must admit I think winning the whole thing is a long, long, long shot.
Nevertheless, I think the smart money is definitely on the qualification from group E as a minimum, and with a favourable draw in the knockouts, who’s to say what they could pull off this summer.
If you are tempted, I feel obliged to add the reminder to gamble responsibly on all markets this Euro’s.
NextGoalWinner If you’ve reached this point of our Sweden Euro 2020 preview, firstly well-done, and secondly I wanted to briefly self-promote my own blog, socials, and the whole lot if you will allow the briefest of self-indulgences.
Thanks to The FM Network and the great idea of allowing aspiring or current football bloggers/writers to create these pieces, it has been my first opportunity to work on something not related purely to NextGoalWinner.com and I appreciate this opportunity.
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Thanks for reading.