A look at the Sweden with a little help from ABBA
I Have A Dream
Manager Janne Andersson – aka The Monster because he resembles one when he explodes on the touchline – was appointed in 2016 with the ambition of taking Sweden to the World Cup finals for the first time in 12 years. He did not possess the finest building materials but, like an IKEA flatpack – in the hands of the right man – he has constructed a sturdy creation. The team builder who guided underdogs Norrköping to the national title met his goal and has gone on to overachieve in steering Sweden to a quarter-final against England.
One of Us
The two countries have strong links. The Viking invasions 1,000 years ago mean millions of English can trace their roots back to Scandinavia and what became Sweden. Almost 90 per cent of the adult Swedish population are able to converse in English and the two languages share roots and even some words. However be careful is you are planning on taking this kinship a step further. Kiss translates as urine in Swedish.
Don’t expect a Colombia-style bloodbath. Despite its ferocious past, Sweden is a peace-loving nation which has not been at war for almost 200 years and it was the first in the world to ban the smacking of children. The football team is one of the most disciplined at this tournament having picked up just six yellow cards in four matches.
The Name of The Game
4-4-2. Sweden swear by well-drilled solidity. They are an eminently sensible mob. What would you expect from a country that invented the seatbelt and safety match?
Thank You For the Music
Sweden has the highest number of choirs compared to population in the world. Roughly 600,000 Swedes sing in them. So expect the chanting to be of a high standard in Samara.
S O S
Sweden employ Daniel Evkall, a sports psychologist, as a shoulder to lean on for their players but also to create a group mental plan for each match. Ekvall, 39, who worked with manager Andersson at Norrkoping, is credited with helping to develop the unity which has been Sweden’s biggest strength.
Sweden's Emil Forsberg celebrates scoring against Switzerland
The Swedes don’t mind absorbing pressure. Against Switzerland they had barely a third of the possession yet still shut out their opponents. They have conceded just two goals at this World Cup.
Head Over Heels
The retired but hardly retiring Zlatan Ibrahimovic delivered what was quite possibly the best goal scored against England in their history with a 30-yard bicycle kick in a 4-2 friendly win for Sweden six years ago. Shirt off, pecs out, ego even more swollen…
In the present group of grafters, Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg is the nearest thing to a star. The team’s most creative player, it was his deflected goal which took the Swedes past Switzerland in the round of 16. Wife Shanga used to be a Sweden international too.
Money Money Money
Swedish football does not have much of it. The average wage in the Allvenskan is around £100,000 compared to £2.6m in the Premier League – no wonder then every single player in the Sweden squad plies his trade abroad.
Seb Larsson, the oldest player in the team at 33 and a veteran of four English clubs including most recently Hull, returns after suspension to face England. His set-play delivery will be crucial for the Swedes.
I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
When the wife of Sweden’s captain Andreas Granqvist tied the knot with her husband she might have presumed he would be there for her in hour of need, but country has trumped family. With the couple’s second child four days overdue, he has chosen to remain in Russia to play against England.
Italy eliminated from World Cup qualification after match against Sweden
Take A Chance On Me
Sweden were 100-1 outsiders to lift the World Cup with some bookmakers before the tournament. Those odds have shrunk to 25-1 since but they remain the outsiders of all the surviving sides.
Italy will testify to Sweden’s taste for giantkilling. They eliminated the Azzurri in a two-legged play-off to reach this World Cup having taken out Holland in their qualifying group.
The Winner Takes It All
If this game was on size Sweden would prevail. The land mass is nine times bigger than England. If it was on population England – seven times larger – would take it. But it is 11 v 11 on neutral territory in south-west Russia. England start favourites but the Swedes don’t roll over for anyone.
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