As the two time-winner of Sweden's player of the year award, one would expect Therese Sjogran to be a class act. The midfielder showed some of her star quality against Korea DPR when she controlled a long ball into the box on the volley, teeing up young midfielder Lisa Dahlkvist to score the only goal of the game.
Although the victory was celebrated joyfully by the Scandinavians, it came at a cost. A booking for influential skipper Caroline Seger, who also received a yellow card in the first game against Colombia, means she will be suspended for Wednesday's crunch match against USA which will decide who finishes top of Group C.
“Caroline’s our captain and of course we’re going to miss her,” Sjogran told FIFA.com. “But I think we have good replacements in [Nilla] Fischer and [Marie] Hammarstrom. She’s a really good player but we have good subs who can come in.”
With 164 caps to her name, Sjogran is the elder stateswoman in the Sweden squad. She has played in three UEFA Women’s EUROs, three Olympic Games and this is her third FIFA Women's World Cup. With Seger out, the 34-year-old knows that the younger members of the team will be turning to her for inspiration.
“I think responsibility comes with age,” she said. “I’ve been in the national team since 1997 and obviously my role has changed since I made my debut. I’m now the oldest so I try to help the younger ones. It’s not that I stand and scream at them in training, I show it more with my play. But I try to help them as much as I can, as I have a lot of experience and I can teach them so many things.
“But I’m learning from them too. Just look at [Antonia] Goransson and [Sofia] Jakobsson. I like the fact they do what they’re good at. They’re instinctive. I hoped when I was young that I could be like that but I wasn’t. So I admire them. It’s great to have them with us and they give a special input to the team.”
Sjogran believes that the likes of Goransson and Jakobsson are experiencing a very different World Cup debut to the one she experienced in 1999, citing her experiences in Augsburg following Saturday's game as an example.
“It’s gone from something small to really big,” she smiled. “You can see it in Germany, everybody is so into the game. We went to the city with our own clothes on, and people recognised us anyway – that wouldn’t have happened before. In Germany women’s football is really big. The football has improved as well, we are more technical and every country is doing better and better.
“Every time there’s a big tournament like the Olympics or the World Cup, women’s football comes into the forefront of people’s minds. I think more girls want to play football because of it. I hope that this World Cup can help women’s football progress even further. I hope that the leagues back home are boosted as a result and more people come to watch.”
Another large crowd is expected in Wolfsburg for the meeting between Sweden and USA. It brings together the two teams with 100 per cent records in the group, as well as two Swedish coaches: Pia Sundhage and Thomas Dennerby. Although the USA coach is claiming that she knows the tactics of her countryfolk inside out, Sjogran insists that the Americans hold no surprises to her and her team-mates.
“USA are a really good team, but they’re only human,” said Sjogran, who plays her club football in the States. “They are a good team but we don’t have the fear of them that we had before. We beat them in January in China and I feel we know how they play. Pia has changed their style, they want to go through the midfield more, so we know how we’re supposed to play against them. It’s going to be a hard game but I think we can get a good result.”