Sweden hopes to end their long title drought in the women’s football greatest event in 2023. After a not-so-impressive Women’s Euros last summer even though they reach the semi-finals, Gerhardsson’s side are desperate to do more than their third-place finish last time. With their star-spangled squad, Sweden wants to be torch-bearers of international football again.
Sweden have been one of the most recognized sides in the Women’s World Cup as they have taken in every edition of the tournament so far since it became a FIFA-recognized event in 1991. They also hosted it in 1995 in their second participation while ending as runners-up in 2003 and finishing third on three occasions including the last two. They were also the bronze medalists in the inaugural edition. Sweden’s only worst-ever showing was in 2007 when they exited from the group stages. Victoria Svensson and Lena Videkull are the joint-highest goal scorers for the Swedes in the Women’s World Cup with six goals while current player Caroline Seger will be appearing in her fifth World Cup.
The Blue and Yellows were bronze medalists yet again in the 2019 Women’s World Cup after defeating England in the third-place playoff. Earlier, it was finalist Netherlands that defeated them in the semi-finals with a single goal from Jackie Groonen in extra-time. Sweden came second to eventual champions United States in the group stages losing 2-0 in the final group match to them. A 2-0 win over Chile kicked off their campaign in France followed by a 5-1 humbling of Thailand. The 1-0 success against heavyweights Canada in the last 16 and then a huge 2-1 comeback victory over Germany in the quarterfinals marked an excellent campaign for the nation.
Qualification for Women’s World Cup
In the 2023 Women’s World Cup qualifiers, Sweden finished four points ahead of second-placed Ireland in their group securing automatic qualification. Gerhardsson’s side did not suffer any defeat in the eight matches played while managing to score 32 and conceding just twice. Their biggest win was the 15-0 dismantling of Georgia.
Preparation for Women’s World Cup
Sweden played four friendlies this year against China, Germany, Denmark and Norway. They only managed to beat the Asian champions 4-1 in that period drawing 0-0 and 3-3 with the Euro 2022 finalists and the Grasshoppers respectively while losing to the Danes 1-0. It is fair to say the side are not entering the showpiece in the best of form but these results will mean less if they turn out on the big occasion.
Sweden Squad for Women’s World Cup
Goalkeepers: Tove Enblom (KIF Orebro), Jennifer Falk (BK Hacken), Zecira Musovic (Chelsea)
Defenders: Jonna Andersson (Hammarby), Linda Sembrant (Juventus), Nathalie Bjorn (Everton), Magdalena Eriksson (Bayern Munich), Amanda Ilestedt (PSG), Hanna Lundkvist (Atletico Madrid), Anna Sandberg (BK Hacken)
Midfielders: Filippa Angeldahl (Manchester City), Kosovare Asllani (AC Milan), Hanna Bennison (Everton), Elin Rubensson (BK Hacken), Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (Chelsea), Olivia Schough (FC Rosengard), Caroline Seger (FC Rosengard)
Forwards: Stina Blackstenius (Arsenal), Rebecka Blomqvist (Wolfsburg), Lina Hurtig (Arsenal), Sofia Jakobsson (San Diego Wave), Madelen Janogy (Hammarby), Fridolina Rolfo (Barcelona)
Head Coach: Peter Gerhardsson
There are no major surprises in the Swedish squad as Peter Gerhardsson names an expected roster for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Brighton duo Emma Kullberg and Julia Zigiotti Olme have not made the cut. Before the squad announcement, defender Hanna Glas said she will not be part of the squad because of her recovery from a knee injury suffered last month. Midfielder Caroline Seger will play in her fifth World Cup after gaining fitness ahead of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Scorer of the winner in Women’s Champions League for Barcelona, Fridolina Rolfo has been listed as a forward for the national team having operated as a left-back at the club level this past season.
The core of the group is intact for Sweden and that could be a strength in the tournament. With a lot of talent and established names in every position on the pitch, they could be major players in Australia and New Zealand. The team have leaders like Magdalena Eriksson and Seger with the 38-year-old forming an excellent trio in midfield with Filippa Angeldahl and the creative hub Kosovare Asllani. The defense is also stacked with Eriksson, Jonna Andersson, Linda Sembrant and Nathalie Bjorn, also capable of playing in midfield, with Zecira Musovic an able number one for the side.
The Euro 2022 saw Sweden failing to control games and being passive in creating scoring chances. The defensively reliant football of their coach can be at times a step back for the technical players around to demonstrate their own game. That being said Gerhardsson’s side advanced to the semifinals last summer despite not being at their best. The 4-0 loss to eventual champions England was not that damaging knowing the opponents on a different level altogether. Some of the players were not at their best of form in that tournament but had decent club seasons so that will build optimism.
Star Player: Fridolina Rolfo
While Eriksson will be the wanted leader at the back with Seger doing the role in midfield with Asllani always shining in country colors, the spotlight will be on Fridolina Rolfo to translate her fantastic form with treble-winning Barcelona side in the 2022/23 season. The 29-year-old failed to make a real impact at the Euros leaving only Asllani to drive the team forward. However, Rolfo looked to be her real self in the club season amid the shift to the left-back position. She contributed to 22 goals, scoring 12 and assisting 10, in all competitions. The tip of it is the winner in the stunning comeback against her former club Wolfsburg in the Women’s Champions League final which ended 3-2 at Eindhoven. Rolfo is expected to slot back into her forward role for Sweden and will hope to use her wand of a left boot to do the damage in the opposition’s final third.
How will Sweden Lineup at the Women’s World Cup?
Sweden will line up without much change to the eleven that started the Euros last summer. One change could be seen in the right wing as 33-year-old Sofia Jakobsson makes way for Kaneryd although the former will have more game minutes by the time the tournament rolls in. Rolfo will hug the opposite flank while Jonna Andersson takes the left-back spot. Nathalie Bjorn will slot in midfield if Caroline Seger is not preferred.
Sweden Women’s World Cup Fixtures
Sunday, 23 July 2023
Sweden vs South Africa - Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
Saturday, 29 July 2023
Sweden vs Italy - Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
Wednesday, 2 August 2023
Argentina vs Sweden - FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
All the group-stage games for Sweden will be staged in New Zealand. The Blue and Yellow should not face hurdles in finishing at the top of the group even though Italy and Argentina sustain the quality to trouble them. They are opening the campaign against CAF Women’s Cup of Nations winners South Africa which all respect to the opposition should be a winning match to build momentum. Provided they become winners in Group G, they are likely to face the Netherlands who may finish second in Group E or even holders United States. That will itself make the progression to the quarterfinal a tough job with the probable opposition to face at this stage.
Sweden are a credible side to move deeper into the contest but it is the test they have to pass against sides who either have a bit more quality than them or sustain tournament-winning experience. They have mainly been the third-best side in every major tournament recently and it won’t be a surprise if they end in the same podium once again. However, the challenge will be more severe this time with other nations overtaking them in the favorites tag.
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