Lotta Schelin is Sweden’s all-time leading scorer
She believes her old team can “go all the way” at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup
Schelin was also full of praise for The Best FIFA Women’s Player, Alexia Putellas
Lotta Schelin was one of the great strikers of her generation. She was also, at club level at least, a serial winner. But despite winning eight successive top-flight titles and three UEFA Women’s Champions League crowns with Lyon, Schelin was never able to replicate that golden touch at international level. Over of the course of her 13 years, 185 caps and record 88 goals with the national team, Sweden remained the ‘nearly women’ of major tournaments. Though regulars in the latter stages, the closest Schelin and her team-mates ever came to gold was at the 2016 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, when they lost out to Germany in the final.
Now in the role of supporter, having retired in 2017, the 37-year-old thought that she was finally set to cheer a podium-topping Sweden team when they began last year’s Olympics by thumping the world champions – and continued in the same vein. "That was amazing,” said Schelin, a record five-time Diamantbollen (Swedish player of the year) winner. "Sometimes you start slowly in tournaments, but they started off so well - beating the US 3-0 - and then just continued. They performed so well during the whole competition." So impressive were the Swedes, in fact, that their heartbreaking defeat to Canada in the gold medal match took almost everyone – Schelin included – by surprise. "For me, and for the team themselves I think, they were the favourites in that final, so for them to lose in that way, it was tough. Really hard," she reflected.
"All the same, you still look at Swedish football at this moment and say, "It’s really good’. And they are going to continue pushing. So, yeah, everyone has to look out! "The coach at the moment is getting the group working as a unit, which is typical of Swedish teams, but he’s also found a way of playing that’s really interesting. We are constructive in our play and, at the same time, we utlisie our best skills, like speed and physicality. So, for me, I only see us improving further."
The big question, of course, is whether that improvement will take Sweden to the winner’s medals they have been chasing for the best part of four decades. With this year’s UEFA Women’s EURO and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup looming large on the horizon, Schelin has high hopes. "Everyone [in Sweden] is really going into this EURO with a lot of expectations. And I know that expectations can sometimes be tough," she said. "But I believe this team can have that on their shoulders; I feel that. "As for the World Cup I feel like after 2019 that anything can happen because of the investment and the skills of the players and the teams. You see more teams playing at a high level, and that makes it interesting. The Swedish team are in a good place, so if they can just continue working, avoid losing key players to injury, of course, because that’s key, I feel like they can really put up a fight and maybe go all the way. Why not?"
Yet if Sweden are genuine contenders for these upcoming tournaments, so too are Spain. After all, while La Roja might not have the same pedigree in reaching tournaments’ latter stages, they have emerged with a golden generation that includes the freshly crowned Best FIFA Women’s Player in Alexia Putellas. "I’ve been watching Alexia for a while, and she has really been blooming over the last couple of years with Barcelona," said Schelin, who assisted during the FIFA Football Awards ceremony. "When a team plays like that and has a key player like Alexia, they can win keep winning everything. She’s exceptional. I’m happy for Spanish football that it is producing these kind of talents, like her and [Jennifer] Hermoso [another finalist for The Best]. "For me, Alexia is good at everything. She’s technical, she can read the game, she scores a lot of goals. She’s just an amazing player."