Sweden's captain assesses state of national team
She's preparing for her fourth World Cup
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Ten years on from first captaining the Sweden national team, Caroline Seger is preparing for what will be her fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup™, a tournament in which she has not exactly enjoyed the best of luck. No wonder then that she is looking forward to France 2019 with enthusiasm and considerable ambition.
"Expectations are very high," Seger said to FIFA.com right off the bat. "I think we’re a very good team, but not yet as good as we can become."
A fourth place finish at the recent Algarve Cup would indeed suggest that Sweden are on a learning curve, but the veteran midfielder is not rushing to judgement on her team’s performances there. "We racked up the goals against Switzerland when everyone was saying we weren’t scoring enough. Then after losing to Portugal, people were saying we didn’t know how to defend well... It’ll always be like that. However, we have confidence in our football. We just need to keep working on what our coaching staff tell us, both in defence and attack, and continue to bolster our self-confidence."
Olympic Games: 2008 (quarters), 2012 (quarters), 2016 (silver medal)
European Championship: 2005 (semis), 2009 (quarters), 2013 (semis), 2017 (quarters)
FIFA Women’s World Cup: 2007 (group phase), 2011 (bronze medal), 2015 (last 16)
'Confidence' is a word the Rosengard player uses often and something she feels will be key to her side's preparation for France. Looking ahead to the tournament, she sets herself and her team-mates a challenge.
"We have very quick players in attack and we can be lethal on the break. However, I hope we can see a different Sweden from previous World Cups. By that I mean a team that can dominate possession and control the game, and not just one that can defend and do well on the counterattack. I hope we'll also be good in possession at this World Cup."
|Chile-Sweden||11 June, 18:00 local time||Roazhon Park, Rennes|
|Sweden-Thailand||16 June, 15:00 local time||Stade de Nice, Nice|
|Sweden-USA||20 June, 21:00 local time||Stade Oceane, Le Havre|
Drawn in Group F alongside USA, the pair will meet in their final group game. A veritable classic of the women’s game, it is the most played World Cup fixture, with the two having crossed swords no fewer than five times previously in the competition.
Their most recent encounter, however, came at a different event: the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016, when the Scandinavians eliminated the North Americans in the quarters to deny them a place on the podium for the first time in the tournament’s history.
"I expect they’ll still be a bit annoyed with us about that," Seger said, “and be out for a measure of revenge. But they know that we're a difficult opponent. We know each other well, so that’s a game I’m really looking forward to."
"USA always go into major competitions in very good shape and this one will be no different. They prepare like a club and spend four or five months together before the tournament, whereas other teams have something like two or three weeks. And they have the players – with countless ones to choose from – and they are always good.”
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 21: (L-R) Caroline Seger of Sweden and Chantelle Esau of South Africa during the International Women's Friendly match between South Africa and Sweden at Cape Town Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Caroline Seger during a training with Swedens national team in football on April 4, 2019 in Ferreiras,
A lot has changed in women’s football since Seger's international debut in 2005 – not least the fact that Sweden is no longer one of the strongest leagues and the dream destination for players. "As a country, we’ve represented a certain standard and still have a good league. But if you want to achieve everything as a professional player, you no longer choose Sweden. You choose another country, because right now there’s more money and greater possibilities elsewhere."
As a player, she too has changed a lot. "I'm more mature now and have more experience. I understand my role better and know what I can do and what the team need from me. That gives me a lot of self-confidence, and I also feel the trust that my team-mates have in me," she added.
So how does she feel heading into what will be her fourth World Cup? "Obviously it’s not a new experience for me, as I've been here for so long that I know what to expect. I also know how to prepare myself and what I should focus on. It will probably be my last World Cup," admitted the 34-year-old. "I hope to be able to enjoy what is such an important tournament, as well as showcase my game and create memories that will last a lifetime."
"We didn’t get past the group stage... It was terrible! We went into our third game needing to beat Korea DPR by a sizable margin. We didn’t play very good football, and it wasn’t a great experience."
"We did better but, unfortunately, I picked up two yellows and was in the stands for the USA game. That said, we reached the knockout phase. Then I got injured after the quarter-final. It wasn’t a great World Cup on a personal level, but it was very good for the team. I felt very proud of that bronze medal watching from the bench, but I’d have liked to be out on the pitch."
"This wasn’t a great one for us. Our best match was against the USA (0-0), but we lost heavily to Germany in the last 16 (4-1). Maybe we’d be better talking about the Olympic Games?" said the Rio 2016 silver medallist.
That will have to be for another day.