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Can Sweden finally reach their potential at the European Championship?
Can Sweden finally reach their potential at the European Championship?

Sweden’s best showing at the European Championship happened to be their debut in 1992 — but they have only made it beyond the group stage once since then.

Despite that, their fans will head into Euro 2020 with high hopes.

A favourable group and a talented squad mean Sweden could make it to the knockout phase for the first time since 2004.

Background

Following their semi-final outing in 1992, Sweden are regularly tipped as dark horses ahead of every international tournament they qualify for.

Yet when the finals come around, they frequently fail to deliver.

Sweden have finished bottom of their group at the last two Euros, claiming just a single point in 2016, before a quarter-final berth at the 2018 World Cup gave them renewed hope.

Drawn in a group containing Spain, Slovakia and Poland, Janne Andersson will know his team can improve upon their last showing.

They are tipped to battle it out with Poland for second behind Spain.

But in truth, the group is there to be won — especially if they get a good result against La Roja in their opening game.

How they qualified

Sweden finished as runners-up in Group F, five points behind Spain but four points clear of Norway.

They picked up two impressive wins over Romania and held the table-toppers to a 1-1 draw in Stockholm, with Luis Enrique’s side needing a last-minute goal to avoid defeat.

They lost just once during qualification — a 3-0 defeat in Madrid — and only conceded six goals in their remaining nine games.

Andersson’s side averaged 2.3 goals per match, striking a balance between defensive resilience and offensive efficiency.

The line-up

Victor Lindelof will be at the heart of Sweden's defence this summer
Victor Lindelof will be at the heart of Sweden's defence this summer

Sweden tend to favour a traditional 4-4-2. 

There is nothing fancy about what they do but everyone knows their job and that is one of the reasons they are producing good performances and getting results.

The central midfielders are ball players who do the dirty side of the game just as well, while their wide players are superb in one-on-one situations. 

Sweden's strikers tend to be paired in an old-school No9 and No10 combo, with one dropping a little deeper.

Predicted line-up: Olsen; Krafth, Lindelof, Granqvist, Olsson; Kulusevski, Ekdal, Larsson, Forsberg; Quaison, Isak.

Star man: Emil Forsberg

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic's supposed return scuppered by injury, there is a void to be filled and Emil Forsberg could be the player to do just that.

He finished the 2020-21 Bundesliga campaign with seven goals and four assists, having been used by RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann as a false nine in some matches.

The 29-year-old has the ability to be the team’s chief creator — if he is tasked with pulling the strings, chances will flow.

He ranks in the top 10% or higher for passes attempted, passes completed, progressive passes and shot creating actions, when compared with forwards across Europe’s top five leagues and continental competitions.

If Sweden are to make an impact at Euro 2020, Forsberg will have to find his groove.

Up-and-comer: Alexander Isak

Alexander Isak will be Sweden's biggest goal threat at Euro 2020
Alexander Isak will be Sweden's biggest goal threat at Euro 2020

One of the best attacking prospects in world football today, this could be the summer Alexander Isak announces himself on the European stage.

Still only 21, he has consistently scored goals for AIK, Willem II and Real Sociedad.

He netted 17 in 34 appearances in LaLiga in 2020-21 and his form has not gone unnoticed, with Barcelona, Chelsea and Liverpool all reportedly keeping tabs on the 6ft 4in striker.

The boss: Janne Andersson

This will be Andersson’s second tournament in charge of the national team.

His first, the 2018 World Cup, was Sweden’s best showing since 1994 and they have certainly progressed under him.

They have pipped the Netherlands to World Cup qualification, knocked Italy out of the play-offs and topped a group containing Germany, Mexico and South Korea.

That is before you even factor in winning promotion to League A of the Nations League and reaching Euro 2020.

Getting to the knockout phase of this tournament would further cement his legacy as one of Sweden’s best managers.

All information correct as of midday, June 4, 2021

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SwedenEuropean Championship

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