Are Sweden back in business after qualifying for the World Cup?
Sweden are perhaps the epitome of the cyclically nature of national teams. Their World Cup achievements have generally come in purple patches, which have been interspersed with periods in the World Cup wilderness.
Outside of the usual suspects, many countries have to wait until the stars align and they produce a generation capable of challenging on the international stage. Sweden’s shock World Cup qualification playoff success over one of the aforementioned usual suspects, Italy, means they will be at Russia 2018 next summer. So are they back in business?
Casinot.com/sv/, one of the leading betting and gaming sites in Sweden, is already pointing its readers in the direction of sites where they can bet on how the national team will fare in Russia. It recommends sites such as Fastbet, where people can put their money where their mouth is when it comes to guessing whether Janne Andersson’s will get out of their group and, if so, how far they could go.
Of course the form book is always useful to study on such occasions. Next summer will be Sweden’s first World Cup finals since 2006. They qualified regularly in the 1990s – famously finishing third at the 1994 World Cup in the USA – but didn’t make on the tournaments in the 1980s.
In the 1970s they were regular qualifiers, but not so in the 1960s. In the 1950s they were runners-up and third-place in two of the three tournaments they reached.
That would suggest the tide could be about to turn once again. While former talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic no longer plays for the national team, his Manchester United club-mate Victor Lindelof is part of the squad that secured qualification. He is also starting to find his feet at Old Trafford at the right time.
With Emil Forsberg performing well for RB Leipzig – and also linked with a transfer to United – there are signs that Sweden might be starting to once again build that core of players at elite European clubs that can be so vital in improving a national team’s prospects.
The 1994 squad had the likes of Tomas Brolin at Parma, Jonas Thern at Napoli and Martin Dahlin at Borussia Monchengladbach, and a young Henrik Larsson – then of Feynoord – starting to make his name.
Sweden won the European Under-21 Championship in 2015 – a good indication that something of a golden generation could be in the offing. A raft of players from that squad have earned senior honours, while some – including Lindelof, John Guidetti and Ludwig Augustinsson – are regulars in the current senior squad.
It now remains to be seen how far the next generation can follow in their footsteps at the 2018 World Cup and potentially at Qatar 2022.