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World Cup 2018 team previews: Sweden

World Cup 2018 team previews: Sweden
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Can Sweden’s defensive-minded, result-based football survive a World Cup?

FIFA Ranking: 24

World Cup history
– Sweden has had a very mixed World Cup past. It participated in four of the first six, getting a step further each time. In 1934, Blagult lost in the quarter-finals, in 1938 they finished fourth, in 1950 third and then lost 5-2 in the final of the 1958 championship they organized to Pele’s Brazil. Since then, the Swedes have been a part of 7 out of 14 possible World Cups. The furthest they’ve gone was U.S.A. 1994, where they were the surprise of the tournament. They got all the way to the semi-finals, where Brazil was the impenetrable barrier once again. Sweden reached the Round of 16 in 2002 and 2006 and failed to qualify for South Africa and Brazil.

How they qualified?
– Sweden is the reason why Holland and Italy are not present at this World Cup. Despite losing the last head-to-head match with the Dutch and finishing tied at 19 points, the Swedes had a better overall goal difference. The second place (behind France) led them to a playoff matchup with Italy. There, a single goal by Jakob Johansson in the first leg in Stockholm decided the winner of the tie and carried Janne Andersson’s men to Russia. In an awkward twist of faith, the goalscorer Johansson is not a member of the 23-man squad.

Full 23-man squad:

Goalkeepers:
Robin Olsen (Copenhagen)
Karl-Johan Johnsson (Guingamp)
Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Swansea)

Defenders:
Mikael Lustig (Celtic)
Victor Lindelof (Manchester United)
Andreas Granqvist (Krasnador)
Martin Olsson (Swansea)
Ludwig Augustinsson (Werder Bremen)
Filip Helander (Bologna)
Emil Krafth (Bologna)
Pontus Jansson (Leeds United)

Midfielders:
Sebastian Larsson (Hull)
Albin Ekdal (Hamburg)
Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig)
Gustav Svensson (Seattle Sounders)
Oscar Hiljemark (Genoa)
Viktor Claesson (Krasnador)
Marcus Rohden (Crotone)
Jimmy Durmaz (Toulouse)

Forwards:
Marcus Berg (Al Ain)
John Guidetti (Alaves)
Ola Toivonen (Toulouse)
Isaac Kiese Thelin (Waasland-Beveren)

Coach: Janne Andersson

Sweden’s Group F fixtures:
Sweden – South Korea (18 June), Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
Sweden – Germany (23 June), Fisht Olympic Stadium
Sweden – Mexico (27 June), Yekaterinburg Arena

It just wasn’t meant to be for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Sweden failed to qualify for the two previous World Cups when he was in the squad, but managed to qualify for this one without him. It’s a team that relies primarily on strong defense and prides itself on not letting opponents score. That’s mostly a tactical decision by the coach, as the Swedes actually have quite a few talented offensive players who could do some real damage if given the freedom.

This group will be a good test for Sweden’s defensive unit, although considering it played France in the qualification group and then eliminated Holland and Italy, I doubt it’ll be scared of the prospect of facing Germany, Mexico or South Korea.

Player to watch:
Emil Forsberg