Euro 2020 is at the knockout stage and Sweden will be looking to relive the memories of almost 30 years ago.
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 have a good chance of matching that having progressed from the group stages for the first time since 2004.
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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 whose biggest success last season was arguably bringing the best out of Jordan Pickford in the battle to be Everton No. 1. Even 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 21-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 has proven himself in his fleeting moments on the pitch so far.
Attack: Alexander Isak
Real Sociedad have been one of the most dynamic attacking forces in La Liga this season and there’s no doubting Alexander Isak has been the driving force behind that. The 21-year-old has netted 16 times in 33 appearances, building on a solid start to life in Spain last year. Since the start of 2020, Isak has scored just two international goals in eight caps but he should head into this summer’s tournament refreshed and confident after a great showing in 2020/21.
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 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 while Ludwig Augustinsson is his parnter. Victor Lindelof anchors 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 would have been banking on pairing Dejan Kulusevski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic together. However, circumstance has brought Isak and Marcus Berg together, with the pair working well in the group stages.
Sweden also have some interesting players on the bench, including Kulusevski, Robin Quaison and Jordan Larsson (son of Henrik). Having these forwards available should present Andersson with the ability to switch Sweden’s style of play on a dime if he has to.
Sweden’s starting XI this summer isn’t likely to differ too much from that which was beaten 2-0 in the 2018 World Cup quarter-final by England, with the likes of Olsen, Lindelof, Forsberg and Berg all retaining their spots. The most notable absentee will be Granqvist, who hasn’t been capped since 2019 and will only be a squad member at best. Former Sunderland forward Ola Toivonen retired after the 2018 World Cup.
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: WWDWWWWW
Sweden have been excellent in 2021, unbeaten after eight games, only failing to been Spain in their Group E opener. On top of beating Poland and Slovakia at Euro 2020, Sweden have also seen off Georgia and Kosovo in World Cup qualifying.
Chances of winning:
Sweden are definitely among the outsiders for this summer’s tournament. They are at 40/1 to win Euro 2020 with Sky Bet and with good reason, too. Although they face Ukraine in the last-16, Sweden would likely have to beat Netherlands and one of England or Germany to reach the final, where anyone of Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium could await them.
(Odds in this article are correct at the time of writing. 18+ only, BeGambleAware.org)