Sweden

Population: 9,000,000
Area: 449,964 km²
Capital: Stockholm
Language: Swedish

 
THE ROAD TO GERMANY
Sweden came second to Croatia in UEFA group 8, but qualified without needing play-offs as one the best runners-up.
Click here for details

 
MATCHES IN 2006
Jan 18 Saudi Arabia v Sweden 1-1
Jan 23 Jordan v Sweden 0-0
Mar 01 Rep of Ireland v Sweden 3-0
May 25 Sweden v Finland 0-0
Jun 02 Sweden v Chile 1-1

 
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Participated: (10) 1934, 1938, 1950, 1958, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1990, 1994 and 2002
Best placing: Beaten finalists 1958
Topscorer: Kennet Andersson, 5 goals
More detailed history information

 
FIRST ROUND MATCHES
Jun 10 - SWE v TRI  in Dortmund
Jun 15 - SWE v PAR  in Berlin
Jun 20 - SWE v ENG  in Cologne

 
PWC STAFF VERDICT
- Sweden in Group B -
Jan Alsos: 2nd place
Pierre Boisrond: 3rd place
Ruud Doevendans: 1st place
Mike Gibbons: 2nd place
Peter Goldstein: 3rd place
Paul Marcuccitti: 2nd place
Felipe Santos: 2nd place
PREDICTION: To KO-stage



SCANDINAVIANS CAPABLE OF EMULATING 1994


by Jan Alsos


    Sweden ended up in the Group of Death four years ago, this time the draw has been nicer to them, even though it will be another encounter with Sven Göran Eriksson's England. There is Paraguay instead of Argentina and Trinidad & Tobago instead of Nigeria compared with 2002. One of the heroes from Sweden's team that came third in 1994, Kennet Andersson, said: "You can't wish for a better draw than this. It looks very bright for us".

    Sweden will carry the favourite's burden along with England in this group. Sweden lost to Paraguay in Stockholm in a warm-up friendly before the 2002 World Cup, and the threat from South America is serious this time also. Swedish teams traditionally perform better as underdogs, so this years's draw wasn't all that positive in that matter. In 1990, when a clear runners-up position looked likely, Sweden flopped when grouped with Brazil, Scotland and Costa Rica. Trinidad & Tobago could well be this year's Costa Rica for Sweden if they don't find their rhythm early on.

    Still, Sweden have very much to be optimistic about going into the finals this summer. Lars Lagerbäck is now the sole man in charge of this team having shared the job with Tommy Söderberg until Euro 2004 when the latter stepped down to coach Sweden's U21-team. Lagerbäck has managed to create a strong team unit and his first personal goal is to guide Sweden to the quarterfinals. He is a quiet, media-shy and well respected man in his home country among fans and players. Sweden haven't missed a tournament since he joined the staff in early 1998 following Tommy Svensson's failed campaign for the France World Cup. Lagerbäck has been allowed to work in peace and build his team slowly. Now he reckons the team is the best it has ever been under his management.

    Swedish football has been known for decades to be front-running when it comes to team structure and organization, but like so many others, Lagerbäck's team has also been increasingly dependent of a few keyplayers. Most notably Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Juventus), but also Fredrik Ljungberg (Arsenal) and the evergreen Henrik Larsson (Barcelona). These three kingpins lift Sweden from being a good team to a very good team. They have the individual class and experience to excel in tight matches - which there certainly will be many of this summer.

    A fourth keyplayer - a less famous one - is goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson (Rennes). Lagerbäck will struggle to find a fully qualified replacement should he be unavailable for selection. Isaksson is an excellent goalkeeper, can be a matchwinner, underrated by many and he might be signed up by a bigger club after the World Cup. Lagerbäck has no obvious second choice in goal.

    In defence Sweden will count on Olof Mellberg (Aston Villa) to be the leader. He is the team's captain and central figure in the backline. Teddy Lucic (Häcken) - one of only two survivors from the 1994 bronze medalists squad - looks to be his partner as centerback. On right-back Alexander Östlund (Southampton) is tipped to be Lagerbäck's choice with Erik Edman (Rennes) on the left. These four were regulars in the World Cup qualifiers when Sweden only let in four goals. Petter Hansson (Heerenveen) is a likely stand-in at centerback. There probably won't be too much shifting before the finals in June. A 3-0 defeat in Dublin against the Republic of Ireland in early March with three out of four regulars present in the backline gave the Swedish confidence a knock, but not enough to make Lagerbäck throw everything over board and build from scratch.

    In midfield, Sweden can count on Tobias Linderoth (FC Copenhagen) to be the defensive anchor like he was four years ago in Korea/Japan. There might also be room for the versatile Niclas Alexandersson (IFK Gothenburg), like Henrik Larsson, a player who seems younger every year. In a more attacking midfield position, Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), might be the choice for Lagerbäck. He has a reputation of playing better for Sweden than at club level and who can forget his free-kick goal against Argentina in 2002? Back-up for him might be Kim Källström, another Rennes player, who is still waiting for his big break-through.

    Fredrik Ljungberg will be playing wide in midfield and so too will the unpredictable Christian Wilhelmsson (Anderlecht) if Lagerbäck decides to field a more attacking line-up. Sweden do indeed have many options in midfield. Another could be Tobias Hysén (Djurgården), son of Glenn who played for Liverpool fifteen years ago and captained Sweden at Italia '90, or Daniel Andersson (Malmö FF).

    For all the strength Sweden might have in defence or midfield, the forward line seems to be the team's strongest part nowadays. The Swedes scored 30 goals in their 10 qualifying matches. The attack is spearheaded by the wizard Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He might have had a poor season for Juventus, but that means nothing in June. He scored 8 goals in the qualifiers including a stunner against Hungary in Budapest last fall. With Ibrahimovic in form, Sweden can achieve just about anything. (Lothar Matthäus even launched them as the hottest favourites after Brazil and Argentina to win the World Cup).

    Up front is also Henrik Larsson of course - another 1994 survivor. He has played an important part for Barcelona this season and seems to be scoring frequently also for Sweden. He was written off by many when he suffered a serious leg-injury in 2004, but came back with a vengeance. This World Cup looks to be Larsson's last outing for the national team, and he is determined to sign off in style.

    Should any of the top two be unavailable for selection, Lagerbäck might turn to Markus Rosenberg (Ajax) or any of the three Denmark-based strikers; Marcus Allbäck (FC Copenhagen), Johan Elmander (Brøndby) or Fredrik Berglund (Esbjerg). He might also find room for Mattias Jonson (Djurgården) who is a more physical player, a typical substitute who can come in and change the course of a game.

    Sweden's team is solid through and through and has now achieved qualification to four major tournaments in a row - and it's an interesting curve of development connected to that. Euro 2000: first round exit, WC 2002: second round exit, Euro 2004: quarterfinal exit, WC 2006: semifinal?

A repeat of 1994, may be?


 

 

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