Zlatan-less will almost certainly struggle

By Edward Ssekalo

For that feat alone, the Swedes have earned the right to be taken seriously. The World Cup in Russia marks a first appearance in a dozen years, and while Sweden has done decently enough at previous tournaments and managed to get out of the group on all three previous appearances in 1994, 2002 and 2006, only once, with a golden generation in 1994, did they manage to go farther than the quarter-finals.
Sweden’s two Round of 16 World Cup exits in the country’s last two appearances summarise where the Blagult stand in world football: better than the rest, but not good enough to challenge the very best..

How they play
Sweden is built on a strong, compact and athletic defensive block which ensures the team gives opponents few opportunities. To create opportunities of its own, Sweden relies on quick transitions with a regular use of the wings by the full backs to deliver crosses.

The Swedes are a compact unit, with the power of the collective even greater now that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is no longer present to tower over the rest of his teammates. Every team member now works for everyone else, as opposed to everyone working for Zlatan.

Ever since Zlatan’s retirement, Sweden’s attack has been lightweight at best. Maybe there is no running away from his shadow after all.

Star man
Emil Forsberg, 26, is exciting when he drives forward with the ball. If he has a good World Cup it will become even harder for RB Leipzig to retain his services.

One to watch
Victor Lindelof is one Sweden’s most important players and the defender posts much better performances wearing his country’s yellow and blue than he does donning Manchester United colours..

The Swedes achieved qualification without the retired Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the fact they didn’t bother trying to coax him out of retirement suggests they feel confident enough to compete against Germany and Mexico for one of the two slots available in Group F. Anything better than another Round of 16 exit would be a surprise, but getting past the group will be tough enough to start with.

World Cup Low
A 7-1 defeat to Brazil at the 1950 World Cup.

World Cup Legend
Henrik Larsson has played the most World Cup games for Sweden (13) and scored the most goals (5).

Fifa ranking
Sweden are ranked No.23 by Fifa.

Janne Andersson

Probable lineup

1. Robin Olsen
2. Mikael Lustig
3. Victor Lindelof
4. Andreas Granqvist (captain)
5. Ludwig Augustinsson
6. Viktor Claesson
7. Sebastian Larsson
8. Albin Ekdal
9. Emil Forsberg
10. Ola Toivonen
11. Marcus Berg

How they qualified:
Beat Italy 1-0 in a playoff
WC Appearances: 11
World Cup Record: 1934 – Quarter-finals;
1938 – Fourth place; 1950 – Third place;
1958 – Runners-up; 1970 – First round;
1974 – Second round; 1978 – First round;
1990 – First round; 1994 – Third place;
2002 – Second round; 2006 – Second
Overall Record: P46, W16, D13, L17
Best performance: Runners-up in 1958
WC High: Reaching the final as hosts in
1958, even if they lost that 5-2 to Brazil


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