Euro 2020 is creeping ever closer and Sweden head into the tournament looking to at least make it to the knockout rounds.
Sweden’s best-ever finish at a European Championships was in 1992 when they reached the semi-finals (two years later they finished third at the World Cup) and this group of players will be hoping they can progress from the group stages for the first time since 2004.
The best players Sweden are bringing to Euro 2020:
Goalkeeper: Robin Olsen
Andreas Isaksson was an absolute legend who represented Sweden at six different international tournaments, but he retired after Euro 2016 and Robin Olsen has stepped into his enormous shoes. Olsen is a solid shot-stopper who is currently vying with Jordan Pickford to be Everton No. 1, so he should be overflowing with competitive spirit.
Defence: Victor Lindelof
Having been mentored by Andreas Granqvist for years, Victor Lindelof is now ready to be Sweden’s lead centre-back at a tournament. The Manchester United man definitely has weaknesses in his game but can be exceptional in a rearguard using his positional sense and anticipation to be in the right place to block shots and clear crosses.
Midfield: Dejan Kulusevski
It’s been a while since Sweden had a midfield talent as vibrant and exciting as Dejan Kulusevski. The 20-year-old was so impressive for Parma that he earned a summer move to Juventus, where he has been one of the brightest and most thrilling forces in a mixed season for the Bianconeri. A sublime dribbler, Kulusevski has the ability to blow by almost any opponent with a combination of pace, skill and great balance – and he will likely relish the chance to perform on an international stage.
Attack: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The King is back! After five years in international retirement, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has stepped back into the limelight. What will surely follow is Instagram posts of lions or dragons or some other kind of Death Metal cover art and, of course, Zlatan will speak in quasi-parable about life as a battle. People will probably be upset at his use of the third person as if football interviews couldn’t use a touch of wrestling’s eccentricities to liven them up. As a player Zlatan is pushing 40 but still a dominant force in the penalty area; he may not start (of course he’ll start) but he’ll definitely have an impact.
The manager: Janne Andersson
Janne Andersson took charge of Sweden after Euro 2016. His managerial career to that point was ordinary at first before rising to an incredible climax with IFK Norrkoping in 2015 when he guided the side to their first Allsvenskan title since 1992. That huge win gave him the clout needed to get the Sweden job, leading his nation into the post-Zlatan era.
He guided them to the 2018 World Cup where they shocked everyone by topping their group (containing Germany, South Korea and Mexico) before slipping by Switzerland only to fall at the quarter-finals to England. Andersson has always had a strong presence, even denying Ibrahimovic’s previous attempts to return prior to the World Cup, saying that Sweden “found another style.”
Andersson is not afraid to back himself or his players, and his reunion with Ibrahimovic is likely only happening because the coach has figured out a use for the gigantic genius. Waiting to see what they cook up together will be exciting.
Andersson plays a classic 4-4-2 in a rather uncomplicated fashion. The centre-backs are solid, the full-backs provide width; Mikael Lustig is the old man at the back but the emergence of Emil Krafth may challenge him at right-back. Victor Lindelof will anchor the defence from the middle alongside Marcus Danielson.
In midfield Kristoffer Olsson and Albin Ekdal anchor things and unleash Sebastian Larsson and Emil Forsberg out wide to create and cause danger. Larsson is now 35 with over 120 caps but still poses a threat from set-pieces.
In attack, Andersson has shown a preference for pairing Marcus Berg and Dejan Kulusevski together, giving the young stud as much freedom while retaining Berg’s goalscoring. However, with Ibrahimovic back it’s likely that Berg will drop to the bench as a strike-force consisting of a 34-year-old and a 39-year-old would be agonisingly slow. Pairing Ibrahimovic with the dynamic Kulusevski could work wonders, however.
Sweden also have some interesting players on the bench; the most obvious of which would be Berg himself but also the young, quick forwards Alexander Isak, Robin Quaison and Jordan Larsson (son of Henrik). Having these forwards available should present Janne Andersson with the ability to switch Sweden’s style of play on a dime if he has to.
The form guide
Euro 2020 Qualifying: WWDWDWLWDW
Sweden finished second in their qualification group behind Spain, and they put in an impressive if inconsistent showing. Sweden only once had the same result two games in a row. They’d win but follow that up with a draw before winning again. The exceptions to this pattern was their only defeat, away to Spain, and a double-victory over Romania and Faroe Islands end the campaign.
Recent fixtures: WWWLWLLLWLL
Sweden’s form after qualification was probably a large reason behind Andersson’s willingness to welcome back Ibrahimovic. They really struggled in the Nations League, winning just twice in 2020, one a friendly victory and the other a 2-1 defeat of Croatia that saw Danielson score at both ends of the field. They’ve knocked that inconsistency on the head at the start of 2021, with three straight wins to kick-start their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Chances of winning:
Sweden are definitely among the outsiders for this summer’s tournament. They are at 80/1 to win Euro 2020 with Sky Bet and with good reason, too. Besides a few key youngsters their squad is old and the fact that they’re bringing a 39-year-old Ibrahimovic back is both absolutely awesome but also incredibly damning that they need to coax their all-time top-scorer out of retirement. Sweden’s group at the Euros will see them reunited with Spain but also having to handle the firepower of a Robert Lewandowski-powered Poland, which is why they are 11/2 to finish top, though still 8/15 to qualify thanks to the potential third-place route.
(Odds in this article are correct at the time of writing. 18+ only, BeGambleAware.org)