“The return of God” the tweet that sent shockwaves among the Swedish media and the football fraternity. Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his return to the national camp after retiring in 2016.
Sweden achieved their highest ever World Cup finish in 2018 without the the world superstar after reaching the quarterfinal. The AC Mila star came out of retirement to feature in the World Cup Qualifier games against Georgia, Kosovo and also a friendly against Estonia.
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) March 16, 2021
Zlatan stepping down in 2016 spelt the end of a generation, it was at the time when he has just recovered from a length knee injury that kept it out of the game for close to a year. The collapse of the Scandinavian side seemed inevitable. For years Zlatan was the glue that held Sweden together or like he prefers to say it “ put Sweden on the map”.
However, Sweden has maintained pace, the new generation of players like Alexsander Isak, Dejan Kulusevki, Victor Lindelof, and the experienced core of Sebastian Larson, Marcus Berg, Mikael Lustig have driven on since Zlatan’s retirement and will now welcome the return.
WHO IS SWEDEN’S MANAGER
A former player Janne Andersson has been in charge of the Sweden National team since 2016. Andersson managed a number of clubs in Sweden. His most notable achievement was winning the league with IFK Norrköping in 2015. He led the club to league silverware after 26 years after defeating defending champions Malmo FF away in the last game of the season.
After a disappointing tournament in Euro 2016, Andersson was appointed as head coach. He led Sweden to their highest ever World Cup finish by reaching the quarterfinal of the 2018 edition, where they topped their group that comprised of defending champions Germany, Mexico and South Korea.
In 2018 he also led Sweden to promotion from League B to League A in the UEFA Nations League. Football magazine four four two adjudged him the 17th best manager in the world in November 2018.
Goalkeepers: Robin Olsen, Karl Johan Johnsson, Kristoffer Nordfeldt
Defenders: Mikael Lustig, Pierre Bengtsson, Ludwig Augustinsson, Andreas Granqvist, Victor Lindelof, Martin Olsson, Emil Krafth, Filip Helander.
Midfielders: Sebastian Larson, Emil Forsberg, Viktor Claeson, Ken Sema, Dejan Kulusevki, Albin Ekdal, Gustav Svensson, Oscar Hiljermark, Kristoffer Olson, Mattias Svanberg.
Forwards: Marcus Berg, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexsander Isak, Robin Quaison, John Guidetti, Isac Kiese Thelin.
Manager Janne Andersson has got the best out of his squad since taking over in 2016. Andersson will be reliant on his defence with Lindelof leading the line.
The Manchester United centre half has started nearly every game in the league alongside Harry Maguire. With the ability to play the ball out from the back, Lindelof can defence to attack with his pinpoint long balls as he has demonstrated for the club. In Mikael, Lustig, Lindeloff has a strong defensive centre back and the two complain to each other brilliantly.
The return of Zlatan and the youthful exuberance of Alexsander Isak makes the Swedish attack one that no one can trample with.
It remains certain, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will go down as Sweden’s greatest ever player. The Swedish national has bludgeoned teams over the years with his outrageous goals. Rarely do you see the Zlatan put on a facade for the cameras, the Sweden international has forever possessed the in your face attitude.
With 62 goals in 118 games, he remains Sweden’s highest ever goalscorer. The AC Milan star is truly maturing with age, it’s quite evident Zlatan isn’t the same player he was in his 20’s but he has modelled his game to compete at the highest level. Strong with either foot a massive aerial threat and the ability to dominate within the box, the Swedish powerhouse will add a new dimension of attack to the national team.
Celebrating his 17th birthday with a bang, rising star Alexsander Isak lit the Stockholm derby on fire in 2020. The young forward scored an emphatic brace for AIK against arch-rivals, Djurgårdens IF.
— Exofifa_ (@exofifa_) April 30, 2021
Isak has already drawn comparisons to countryman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The lanky forward moved to Dortmund in 2017 after being earlier linked with Real Madrid. In 2019 he finally arrived in La Liga where he has cemented a starting position for Real Sociedad. Isak has been making a big impact in La Liga and even scored twice in Spanish Cup against Real Madrid where the club from San Sebastian proved victorious in 2020.
The forward is tall, prolific and is blessed with great technical ability with the ability to read the game by finding pockets of space between defenders.
Sweden made their debut in 1992 as tournament hosts. The following here the team didn’t qualify. Since 2000 they have gone past the group stage only once, a quarterfinal loss in 2008 which has been their best-ever finish.
In 2016 they failed to win a single game and finished bottom of their group. Sweden finished 2nd in their group during the qualifying campaign which was topped by Spain.
Drawn alongside Poland, Spain and Slovakia, Sweden will fancy their chances of making it to the next round. Apart from a tricky affair against two-time winners Spain, anything less than a quarterfinal will be a disappointing campaign.
FootTheBall predicts a quarterfinal exit for Sweden.