I always eventually think of Sweden when someone unfamiliar with the game asks who the best teams in the world are. Maybe it’s because the US always seems to play them in a major tournament, or because they always seem to show up in the knockout stage. They’re historically good, but not great, and they’ve never won an Olympics or World Cup. They’ve been runners-up at both competitions, and they have two World Cup third places and an Olympics fourth place. I don’t think that’s going to change this year.
This is probably the World Cup swansong for stalwarts like goalkeeper Hedvig Lindvahl, defenders Linda Sembrandt and Nilla Fischer, and midfielder Caroline Seger, who are 36, 32, 34, and 34 respectively. These are the players I most associate with Swedish success, and they’re going to be hard to replace. That’s a problem for 2023, because they’re likely to be a vital part of this team this summer.
How They’ve Fared
Sweden have played in all eight World Cups. Their best finish is a runners-up finish behind Germany in 2003.
How They Qualified
Winners of Group 4, Sweden coasted to World Cup qualification with seven wins, one loss, and a +20 goal differential.
Player You Know
With 193 international appearances, captain Caroline Seger has done it all. Now 34, the midfielder has played for two American teams in the WPS (Philadelphia Independence and Western New York Flash), both Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain, and she’s played for FC Rosengard, and FC Malmo, which is what Rosengard used to be called. For a long time you were able to drop Seger into your midfield and know that you didn’t have to worry about her doing her job. I’ll always remember Seger as smart, smooth, and one of the best. It’s been a joy to watch her.
Player You’ll Know Soon
Do you remember this?
That’s Stina Blackstenius scoring her second ever international goal, giving Sweden the lead over the United States in the 2016 Olympics. As you probably remember, the game was decided on penalties, with Sweden knocking the US out much earlier than expected. After two seasons at Montpellier in France, with 38 appearances and 26 goals, Blackstenius is moving back to Linkopings FC, where she played from 2013-16. Sweden’s seven attackers at this World Cup have tallied a total of 54 international goals, and Blackstenius has 10 of those. If Sweden is going to score this World Cup, I’m thinking she’s going to be involved.
World Cup Outlook
In an extremely top heavy group, I expect Sweden to have no trouble reaching the knockout stage. They’re not good enough to win the whole thing, but they’ve got more than enough talent to justify a quarterfinal place.