Sweden's striking duo
In Natasha Bedingfield’s hit ‘Wild Horses’, there is a recurring line which says: ‘All I want is the wind in my hair, to face the fear but not feel scared.’ The lyrics, which might apply to any player at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, has particular resonance with Lotta Schelin, the 27-year-old Swede who recently won the UEFA Champions League with Lyon.
The forward, who brings her guitar on trips such as these, admitted that Bedingfield’s song is the one she plays to herself quietly after hard days at Germany 2011. Music is a particular passion for Schelin, who admitted in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com at Sweden’s hotel in Augsburg that she tortured herself as a youngster when trying to make a choice between football or music as a profession.
“I was only eight years old, I was far too young to be deciding on my career,” she said, laughing. “I was crying for a whole day. My mum and dad asked me what the matter was because they didn’t like to see me so upset. And I burst out: ‘I can’t decide whether I’m going to be a football player or a singer!’ Who has to decide that when you’re eight years old?! I was so weird when I was a little girl!
“I love music, but it’s a very private thing for me. It's something I do by myself, in my room, but obviously sometimes when I'm with friends I like to entertain them. I like to play the guitar. I taught myself, but I would like to be really good at it one day.”
FIFA.com’s informant as to Schelin’s hidden talent was none other than her strike partner Jessica Landstrom, 26, who describes her tastes in music as "more mainstream than singer-songwriter...but not punk!" But Sweden’s match-winner in their 1-0 victory over Colombia in their Group C opener has a different type of skill.
“If I hadn’t have been a footballer, I’d definitely been involved in maths or engineering,” mused Landstrom. “I'd actually started a degree in engineering, but after six months I made my debut for the national team and everything changed. I signed a pro contract with a team in Sweden, stayed there for two years, then went to the States and now I’m in Germany. But I've still kept my spot on the course - they’re just waiting for me to be finished with all this football!”
She’s really smart and really determined. When we’re at training, she’ll say ‘I’m going to score four or five goals today’ and she does it.
Landstrom, who describes herself as a "late bloomer", feared that her dreams of playing for Sweden may have been over before they begun. After playing in an U-15 regional tournament in which she finished top scorer, she was told to expect a call from the Swedish Football Association (SvFF). It failed to materialise.
“My dreams were crushed,” she admitted. “After that I really didn’t think about playing for Sweden. I actually didn’t want to think about it because I didn’t want to get upset again. I was determined to be really good, but I thought the chance had passed with the national team. The day I received my first call-up is a day I’ll never forget.”
Schelin is unsurprised that her friend made it to the top: “She does things in her own way, on the pitch and off it. She’s really smart and really determined. When we’re at training, she’ll say, ‘I’m going to score four or five goals today’, and she does it. On the field she always has an impact, and she’s powerful.”
The pair only began to develop their partnership in 2007, when Landstrom made her debut in a 4-2 win over Denmark, in which both scored. Although the understanding appears to be telepathic now, Schelin admitted that it took a lot of work both on and off the pitch to make things appear so natural.
“From the start we really needed to talk a lot because we didn’t really think the same,” she admitted. “It’s always difficult when someone new comes into the side. Against other teams, particularly the better ones, you need to have a really good understanding and I felt like she had her style and I had my style.
“We didn’t really know where to go and what kind of runs to make. Things weren’t completely natural. But we’ve found something and we’re working really well together. We know that we have to stick closely together and be around for one another. I really like to play with her.”
When we finally had the chance to play together with the national team, it was a big moment for me.
Landstrom was quick to return the compliment: "I’d played against her at club level and saw how good she was, so when we finally had the chance to play together with the national team, it was a big moment for me."
There’s only one area of conflict between the duo: the question of who takes the penalties!
“It's Lotta,” bemoaned Landstrom in mock-sadness. “I’m not allowed to take them! Every time we have a pre-match meeting and go through the tactical line-ups from the board, they always say Lotta or Lisa – and I’m always so sad! I’m just going to take the ball off her one of these days."
Schelin, responded, chuckling: “Oh yes, I’m fully expecting her to do a Zlatan Ibrahimovic one of these days. She’ll probably get so mad that she’ll snatch the ball off me and then smash it into the back of the net from the spot. If that happens, I’ll just stand back and say, ‘OK!’”
Landstrom retorted: “I’ll probably get kicked off the team, because it’s not the Swedish way. Zlatan’s stayed, but he’s a bit different to us!”
But not all the areas of difference favour Ibrahimovic. The AC Milan has never scored in his five matches at a FIFA World Cup, while in their combined five FIFA Women’s World Cup games so far, the female forwards have found the net three times.
And Landstrom doesn’t need a degree in maths and engineering to work out who has the better average.