The road to Canada
With no points dropped and just one goal conceded in their ten qualifying matches, Sweden's campaign might be viewed as having been near-perfect. Yet coach Pia Sundhage spoke of "terrible difficulty in creating chances", and their status as Europe's lowest-scoring group winners - albeit with 32 goals - bore this out. Improving on their creativity and penetration will therefore be a key target for a team that has maintained its proud record of having qualified for every FIFA Women's World Cup™ thus far.
Strengths and style
Sundhage has attempted to re-mould Sweden over recent years, placing great emphasis on the central spine of the team and on dominating teams with a more possession-based approach. "It has been a process of ups and downs," the veteran coach admitted, "but the players have accepted the system and we'll only keep improving from here." Key to this tactical change, the Sundhage says, has been "to get the most out of Caroline Seger", the influential Paris Saint-Germain midfielder.
And while the likes of Seger, Nilla Fischer and the vastly experienced Therese Sjogran provide the solid foundation on which the new-look Sweden is built, inspiration is sought from Lotta Schelin. The Lyon striker, now in her 30s, will be aiming to cement her place as the team's record scorer and star player at this, her third Women's World Cup.
As a two-time Olympic gold-winner and former FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women's Football, Pia Sundhage hardly needs any introduction. Hers is one of the most respected voices in the female game and she is a popular leader of a team she represented 146 times during an outstanding playing career. As yet, her greatest successes as a coach have come during a four-year spell with USA, although the Women's World Cup eluded her and the Stars and Stripes in heartbreaking fashion in 2011. The question now is whether Sundhage's Sweden can create happier memories at Canada 2015.
FIFA Women's World Cup record
- Canada 2015 will be Sweden's seventh appearance at the Women's World Cup, maintaining their perfect record of qualifying
- The Swedes' closest brush with glory came at USA 2003, when they reached the final only to lose out to a German golden goal
What they said
"We keep taking small steps all the time. A medal is absolutely what we're going for now. We got the bronze last time and are looking to improve on that."
Lotta Schelin, Sweden forward