Football Features

Where are they now? The teams from Sweden’s historic U21 Euro final win against Portugal in 2015

By Ben Green

Published: 14:05, 30 June 2020

Spain’s international dominance came crashing down when they pitifully surrendered the 2014 World Cup to Germany, but who would have thought Sweden would be the nation to thwart their stranglehold on European U21 glory?

Well, that’s exactly what happened in 2015. The Scandinavian nation had only previously reached a European Under-21 Championship final on one occasion, which came in 1992 with a side that featured the likes of ex-Everton winger Niclas Alexandersson and former Man Utd graduate Jonny Rodlund.

Since that time the podium has been shared by the usual suspects, but five years ago Hakan Ericson’s side bucked the trend to clinch Sweden U21’s first and only major piece of silverware, beating a star-studded Portugal team in the final that featured a number of household names and current world-class marvels.

The balance has since been restored with international powerhouses Germany and Spain clinching the next two trophies, but the 2015 tournament in Czech Republic remains a fairytale relic for those of a blue and yellow persuasion – and a reminder of football’s alluring unpredictability.

Of the two nations in the final at the Eden Arena – which was won on penalties after a nerve-jangling 0-0 draw – it’s safe to say Portugal’s fledgling phenoms have gone on to reach the more illustrious heights, but where can you find both sets of players who contested the final in Prague these days?

Sweden

Goalkeeper: Patrik Carlgren

Current club: Randers FC

Senior international caps: 1

Carlgren was instrumental throughout the tournament and played a decisive role in the sudden death shootout, saving two penalties to secure a 4-3 win for the Blagult. The Falun-born goalkeeper was playing for Allsvenskan giants AIK at the time but now turns out for Danish Superliga side Randers FC.

Right-back: Victor Lindelof

Current club: Manchester United

Senior international caps: 33

Lindelof was initially omitted from Ericson’s squad but was drafted in late on, owing to an injury sustained by current Newcastle defender Emil Krafth. The decision, despite being borne out of necessity, proved inspired as the Man Utd defender played every match of the tournament and helped his side keep a clean sheet in the final against a free-scoring Portugal.

Centre-back: Alexander Milosevic

Current club: Free agent

Senior international caps: 7

Then-Besiktas defender Milosevic faced the worst possible introduction to the tournament after he was sent off in the first game against Italy with only 27 minutes on the clock. He returned after a one-game suspension and formed a key part of Sweden’s defensive backbone, though he hasn’t quite been able to replicate that tournament form at club level, leaving Nottingham Forest by mutual consent in October after a brief stint in the Championship.

Centre-back: Filip Helander 

Current club: Rangers

Senior international caps: 11

After an impressive showing at the tournament the towering Swede was snapped up from Malmo by Serie A side Hellas Verona. He would then move on to fellow Italian club Bologna and now struts his stuff in Glasgow for Steven Gerrard’s Rangers, helping them finish second in the league, although a foot injury ruled him out for the second-half of the season.

Left-back: Ludwig Augustinsson

Current club: Werder Bremen

Senior international caps: 28

Augustinsson received a lot of backlash in the English media after he branded the nation’s U21 squad ‘overrated’ prior to his side’s 1-0 defeat to Gareth Southgate‘s Young Lions. Jesse Lingard was the scorer that day and the pair would meet again in the 2018 World Cup as both started in England‘s 2-0 quarter-final win.

Despite this, Augustinsson went on to have a stellar U21 tournament and was attracting plenty of his interest from Europe’s top clubs after the triumph in Prague. He currently plays for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga, although his campaign was hampered by injury.

Central midfield: Oscar Hiljemark

Current club: Dynamo Moscow (on loan from Genoa)

Senior international caps: 27

The skipper was an ever-present for the Swedes during the tournament, and proudly held the trophy aloft after seeing off Portugal. After the tournament he earned a lucrative move away from PSV to Palermo and now plays for Dynamo Moscow on loan from Genoa.

Hiljemark is currently Sweden‘s most capped player at U21 level (37 appearances).

Central midfield: Oscar Lewicki 

Current club: Malmo

Senior international caps: 15

The former Bayern Munich graduate was the only non-defensive player for Sweden named in the Team of the Tournament – the other two being Lindelof and Helander. He was a Malmo player at the time and has stayed loyal to the Allsvenskan side, as he still dons the blue and white strip to this day.

Right wing: Abdul Khalili

Current club: Hammarby IF

Senior international caps: 1

Khalili was a threat throughout the tournament despite failing to score or set up a goal, and missing Sweden‘s only penalty in the shootout. He left Helsingborgs IF for Turkish football in 2014, but returned earlier this year, signing for Hammarby IF, who are partly owned by none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Left wing: Simon Tibbling

Current club: Brondby

Senior international caps: 1

It was actually Tibbling’s 89th-minute equaliser against Portugal in the group stages which sent Sweden through to the semi-finals at the expense of Italy. He then scored in the 4-1 victory over Denmark and starred in the final. The 25-year-old currently wears the Brondby jersey, but had trials at elite trident Man Utd, Bayern Munich and Ajax during his formative years.

Striker: Isaac Kiese Thelin

Current club: Malmo (on loan from Anderlecht)

Senior international caps: 29

Thelin was invaluable during the tournament, providing a goal and an assist each while also netting in the final shootout. He was plying his trade for Bordeaux at the time, and has since gone on to feature for Anderlecht, Waasland-Beveren, Bayer Leverkusen and Malmo.

Striker: John Guidetti

Current club: Alaves

Senior international caps: 28

Guidetti was the linchpin of this side, with his talismanic exploits yielding two goals and an assist and culminating in a Bronze Boot. He was banging them in for Celtic at the time, on loan from Man City, and has since moved on to Celta, Alaves and Hannover 96 – the latter on loan for the second half of the 2019/20 2. Bundesliga campaign.

Substitutes: Joseph Baffo, Robin Quaison

Portugal

Goalkeeper: Jose Sa

Current club: Olympiacos

Senior international caps: 0

Sa would keep four clean sheets out of five in the tournament but was only able to prevent Khalili from scoring in the shootout. He currently plays for Olympiacos and starred in the Europe League win over Arsenal, as well as the Champions League draw with Tottenham earlier this season.

Right-back: Ricardo Esgaio

Current club: Braga

Senior international caps: 0

Esgaio was a mainstay in an impressive backline, but was unfortunately one of those to miss in the shootout. At 27 he is yet to leave Portuguese football, featuring for Sporting Lisbon, Academica and now Braga.

Centre-back: Paulo Oliveira

Current club: Eibar

Senior international caps: 1

Oliveira was another invaluable cog in Rui Jorge’s defence and even picked up an assist in the 5-0 trouncing of Germany. These days you can find the one-time Portugal international appearing for Eibar in La Liga after a spell with Sporting Lisbon.

Centre-back: Tiago Ilori

Current club: Sporting Lisbon

Senior international caps: 0

The London-born defender joined Liverpool in 2013 after a string of impressive performances for Sporting Lisbon. During his time at Anfield he was unable to break the glass ceiling and has since moved on to Reading before returning to Sporting in January 2019.

Left-back: Raphael Guerreiro

Current club: Borussia Dortmund

Senior international caps: 39

Then at Lorient, the France-born defender’s performances in Ligue 1 and at international level couldn’t be ignored and he soon landed a move to BVB in 2016. Injury problems aside, the 26-year-old is a natural and versatile talent and has since gone on to win Euro 2016 and the inaugural Nations League in 2019 for the seniors.

Defensive midfield: William Carvalho

Current club: Real Betis

Senior international caps: 59

The combative metronome unfortunately missed the decisive spot kick in the shootout, but that is certainly not a reflection of his true ability. He was imperious throughout the tournament, and like many in this side, has gone on to win silverware and play regularly for the senior side.

Right wing: Joao Mario

Current club: Lokomotiv Moscow (on loan from Inter Milan)

Senior international caps: 45

The former West Ham midfielder was his nation’s top scorer in the tournament, bagging the winner in a 1-0 victory over England, while also scoring and setting up a goal in the 5-0 mauling of Germany. He also netted in the shootout but that would have been little solace to a player who is currently struggling to cut the mustard in Milan after such promise.

Central attacking midfield: Bernardo Silva

Current club: Man City

Senior international caps: 43

The diminutive genius was unable to influence the final, but there can be no denying his world class impact for Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning Man City side, now being tipped as the successor to David Silva at the Etihad.

Left wing: Sergio Oliveira

Current club: Porto

Senior international caps: 3

The Portugal captain was at the heart of his side’s dominant performances at the tournament and even hit the crossbar in the final. In a game of fine margins, fortune favoured Sweden on the day. The Porto stalwart has been on the books of his boyhood club since 2002 and has become key to their title-chasing side this season in a more central position.

Striker: Ricardo Pereira

Current club: Leicester City

Senior international caps: 7

Come again? Yes, the Foxes’ tenacious full-back was deployed as a striker throughout the tournament — which may explain his attacking enterprise for Leicester — and he even managed to score, netting the second in that 5-0 thrashing of Germany. In fact, it wasn’t until 2013 that Pereira was reinvented as a right-back by then Porto boss Paulo Fonseca, but he remained a forward at international youth level – what an inspired move by Fonseca.

Striker: Ivan Cavaleiro

Current club: Fulham

Senior international caps: 2

Cavaleiro was already capped at senior level having risen to meteoric prominence for Benfica. He excelled at the Euros that year as well and earned a spot in the Team of the Tournament alongside Sa, Guerreiro, Carvalho and Silva. After failing to convince Nuno Espirito Santo of a regular starting berth for Wolves in the Premier League he joined Fulham on a permanent deal in January.

Substitutes: Toze, Iuri Medeiros, Goncalo Paciencia