June 23, 2011

Group C Preview: Sweden

Sweden (#5)
Region: UEFA
Coach: Thomas Dennerby
How They Qualified: Won UEFA Group Stage, then defeated Denmark in playoff.
Prior Cups:
2007: Group Stage
2003: 2nd Place
1999: Lost in Quarterfinals
1995: Lost in Quarterfinals
1991: 3rd Place
Returnees from 2007 WWC: (12) K. Hammerstrom, Lindahl, Lundgren, Larsson, Rohlin, Thunebro, Fischer, Seger, Sjogran, Forsberg, Edlund, Schelin.

Roster (Average Age: 27.33)
Kristin HammarstromGKKopparberg/Goteborg2912/0
Hedvig LindahlGKKristianstad DFF2869/0
Sofia LundgrenGKLinkoping FC2823/0
Sara LarssonDFOrebro DFF32102/8
Lina NilssonDFLdB FC Malmo2426/0
Charlotte RohlinDFLinkoping FC3144/6
Linda SembrantDFKopparberg/Goteborg2422/1
Annica SvenssonDFTyreso2812/0
Sara ThunebroDFFFC Frankfurt3272/3
Lisa DahlkvistMFKopparberg/Goteborg2435/3
Nilla FischerMFLdB FC Malmo2670/10
Linda ForsbergMFLdB FC Malmo2625/4
Antonia GoranssonMFHamburger SV209/0
Marie HammarstromMFOrebro DFF299/0
Sofia JakobssonMFUmea IK211/0
Caroline SegerMFWNY Flash2678/12
Therese SjogranMFSky Blue FC34168/17
Madelaine EdlundFWTyreso2519/1
Jessica LandstromFWFFC Frankfurt2650/16
Josefine OqvistFWTyreso2764/17
Lotta SchelinFWFCF Lyon2788/37

Recent Matches:
6/23/11JapanFriendlyT 1-1
6/16/11MexicoFriendlyW 2-0
5/17/11EnglandFriendlyL 0-2
4/2/11CanadaFriendlyW 1-0
3/9/11JapanAlgarveL 1-2
3/7/11ChinaAlgarveW 1-0
3/4/11DenmarkAlgarveW 3-1
3/2/11IcelandAlgarveL 1-2
1/25/11CanadaFour NationsL 0-1
1/23/11ChinaFour NationsL 1-2
1/21/11United StatesFour NationsW 2-1
10/26/10NorwayFriendlyW 3-1
9/16/10DenmarkUEFA PlayoffT 2-2(a.e.t)
9/11/10DenmarkUEFA PlayoffW 2-1
8/25/10WalesUEFA WC QualifierW 5-1
8/21/10Czech RepublicUEFA WC QualifierW 1-0
7/17/10United StatesFriendlyL 0-3
7/13/10United StatesFriendlyT 1-1
6/23/10AzerbaijanUEFA WC QualifierW 17-0
6/19/10Czech RepublicUEFA WC QualifierT 0-0

Sweden has appeared in every Women’s World Cup, finishing as high as second place in 2003, when they lost to Germany by a 2-1 score in the final. In 2007, they failed to get out of the group stage in spite of a 1-1-1 record, the only time that has happened in their history. They return 12 players from 2007.

The soccer gods have deemed it so that Sweden be grouped with the United States and North Korea for the third consecutive World Cup. Sweden plays the United States frequently. Both teams are usually at the Algarve Cup and earlier this year, they were both at the Four Nations, where Sweden won 2-1. And like the United States, Sweden will field a veteran team in Germany, the second oldest to their Group C opponent.

It has been a rollercoaster year for Sweden. Their victory over the US at the Four Nations was followed by defeats to Canada and China. They lost to both Iceland and Japan at the Algarve Cup. They recently lost a friendly to England. Their record for the year stands at just 5-5-1. They had to go into extra time to defeat Denmark in order to qualify for the World Cup. If there is one thing Sweden has been over the past year, it is consistently inconsistent.

On the player front, Sweden lost defensive starter Stina Segerstrom to injury. Another defender, Sara Larsson, has been bothered by injuries as well, but she did appear in the team’s last two friendlies.

One never knows quite what to expect from Sweden, a team that always appears on the doorstep of breaking through, but never quite seem to get there. Sweden is currently ranked fifth, but have been as high as third during stretches of 2007-08.

Veteran midfielder Therese Sjogran is the all-time leader in caps for Sweden. This will be her third World Cup. Sjogran and fellow midfielder Caroline Seger form the heart of this Swedish team. Both are familiar to American fans from their WPS play.

As far as scoring goes, Sweden’s two biggest scorers over the past year have been Lotta Schelin and Josefine Oqvist. Schelin, who plays for Lyon, is considered one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the world. She will challenge defenses with her size, speed, and well-timed runs.

After a long scoring drought, Oqvist scored a hat trick against Wales in qualifying and followed that up with goals against China, Iceland, and Denmark in 2011. Jessica Landstrom, who scored six goals in Sweden’s qualifying group stage, has cooled off considerably, although she did score a pair of goals against Denmark earlier this year.

Sweden has a veteran back line with Charlotte Rohlin, Sara Thunebro, and Larsson. They will miss Segerstrom’s presence in back, but they are still a solid group. Hedvig Lindahl is Sweden’s top goalkeeper and was their starter for all three matches in China four years ago.

Most of Sweden’s players are in their late 20’s or early 30’s. This has to be the time for them to shine on the world’s stage. If they don’t, one would suspect a large turnover on the roster before Canada 2015. The group stage will not be easy with the United States and North Korea. They can ill-afford to give up many goals in this competition, so Lindahl and her defense will need to be at their best. Is this the year Sweden finally goes to the top?

Note: Some information for this article was obtained from www.fifa.com and www.svenskfotboll.se.