Sweden defeated Argentina to end UAE 2013 on a high, claiming third place in their first-ever appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Valmir Berisha’s hat-trick contributed hugely to the Scandinavians’ 4-1 resounding victory, but so did Carlos Strandberg’s excellent all-round display.
The young forward expertly set up the tournament’s top scorer for the opener, before doubling his team’s lead with a superb left-footed finish. His hard work, pace and skill on the left side of the attack had a decisive impact on Sweden’s performance against La Albiceleste.
The match for third place was the first time at the tournament that the robust No20 had been included in the starting XI, having played the role of supersub for Roland Larsson’s men in their previous six encounters.
“I was delighted to start the game today,” Strandberg told FIFA.com with a smile, exhibiting a timidity and calmness that contrast with his imposing frame. “I obviously want to start as many as possible now, but I can be patient. When you’re on the bench, there’s no point in getting annoyed or complaining. A good attitude and patience are what earn you a chance. That’s how I approached it, and it paid off for me today.”
While participating in the third place play-off represented a huge disappointment for the Argentinians, whose goal was to lift the trophy, the Swedes had no hesitation in celebrating what was a historic achievement. “We played very well today, and we took our chances when they came along. We didn’t have all that many opportunities, but we managed to put away the ones we did get,” said the attacker, whose most productive outing prior to today came in the opening group match with Iraq.
“Argentina were really keen to win the match, but we showed greater determination on the day. We wanted it more than they did. Berisha’s opening goal was a crucial moment,” he explained, doubtless thinking back to the fine lofted pass he delivered to his free-scoring team-mate, enabling him to fire home the first of his three goals.
“I know him pretty well – what he’s done here doesn’t surprise me, as he’s a brilliant player. I knew he was going to have a great tournament,” he said.
By his own admission, his time in the United Arab Emirates has transformed Strandberg, who now more than ever dreams of taking his career to the next level. But at the same time, he is acutely aware of the importance of keeping his feet on the ground. “I’ll be starting up school and training again – my normal life, in other words. Education is vitally important, in my eyes. When you’re a footballer, you need something you can fall back on if something goes wrong.”
The dynamic striker will soon be back at his club, BK Hacken. “We were second last year, but this year we’re sitting in mid-table. I’ve already been included in the starting line-up three or four times,” he said.
Strandberg is hopeful that his strong performances and the international experience he has acquired will give his career a boost. “As with all positive experiences, I think that this U-17 World Cup has helped me to grow as a player and a person,” he concluded confidently.