Sweden boast a solid record of reaching FIFA World Cups™; in 17 attempts – having not entered in 1930 and earned a place as hosts in 1958 – they have qualified on ten occasions. However, they have a point to prove in the Brazil 2014 preliminaries, having missed out on South Africa 2010 after winning only half of their matches and finishing behind both Denmark and Portugal. The Swedes are ill used to such disappointment, having made it to four of the previous five FIFA World Cups, even surviving unbeaten through their entire 2002 preliminary campaign. They also have a record of upsetting some of the game’s traditional giants, twice qualifying at France’s expense – in 1970 and 1994 – and finishing ahead of eventual semi-finalists England in the preliminaries for Italy 1990.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Solid but unspectacular is probably the best description that could be applied to Sweden’s recent FIFA World Cup showings. On the up side, they have qualified from the group stage in their last three appearances; the down side, however, is that they have promptly fallen at the last 16 in both 2006 and 2002. Third place was achieved at USA 1994 though, emulating the Swedes’ bronze-winning showing in 1950. However, they will do well to match their best-ever showing, which came on home soil in 1958, when they went all the way to the final, only being outdone by the brilliance of Brazil and a young Pele.
The current crop
After close to a decade under Lars Lagerback, when the team became known for its direct and uncomplicated style, the arrival of Erik Hamren has signalled something of a revolution. The system has changed, with Lagerback’s tried and trusted 4-4-2 ditched for a 4-3-3 formation in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads the attack, and so too has the style, with Hamren preferring a more expansive approach.
The key players
Tempting the hugely talented Ibrahimovic out of international retirement has been a key success for Hamren, but the AC Milan star is not the only weapon in Sweden’s attacking armoury. Ola Toivonen is another powerful and skilful forward, while midfielder Kim Kallstrom has the ability to unlock defences and shoot powerfully from distance.
Coach: Erik Hamren
Best performances in a FIFA competition: Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 1948 (Winners), FIFA World Cup Sweden 1958 (Runners-up)
Former stars: Gunnar Nordahl, Henrik Larsson, Thomas Ravelli