- Sweden out to emulate summer of 1994
- A team lacking in stars is rich in unity
- They will now face Switzerland in the last 16
By Alexandra Jonson with Sweden
It’s been a warm summer in Sweden, unusually warm. One that reminds a lot of another World Cup summer which sent thermometers soaring—a summer that Swedes will never forget—the one of 1994, when they saw bronze hung around Swedish necks in the USA.
There is a feeling growing that the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ might turn into another unforgettable June and July. On Wednesday they won a World Cup match by three goals for the first time since that summer of 1994. It was the first time they secured two group stage wins since hosting in 1958, where they eventually reached the final.
But there is a major difference between those sides and the one that beat Mexico 3-0 to top Group F on Wednesday. The ’94 and 58’ teams were undoubtedly graced by several world-class players.
It’s not to say that these are not quality players, but it’s not a team that scream individual quality. Instead it comes down to something far more important: teamwork.
Maybe never before has a Swedish national team been in such harmony as the current one. They call themselves a “club team” in the sense that the relationship between the players is as tight as if they saw each-other on a daily basis, all year round. “If you google 'team', you’ll get a picture of us," John Guidetti said.
That unity has created a special confidence within the group as Pontus Jansson told FIFA. “We have an enormous belief in ourselves. I don’t know what the expectations from the outside are, but this is how it is within the group.”
It’s that self-confidence in the team that has taken Sweden this far, overcoming some of the big names in world football. They defeated France and drew with the Netherlands in their qualifying group, before navigating past Italy in the play-offs and now topping a World Cup group that included the reigning champions.
“We know what we have done before and that in football nothing is impossible if you work really hard," said the Budweiser Man of the Match against Mexico, Ludwig Augustinsson.
“This is something that we have built during the last two years and we completely believe in what we are doing," Sebastian Larsson explained to FIFA. "We show time after time that we can make it difficult for any opponent that we meet. We work hard and feel very comfortable doing it."
Earlier this week Emil Forsberg spoke about having high hopes and at the moment Sweden have every reason to continue doing so. “You should always dream I think, it’s important or else it will be difficult to look ahead.
"We dream of doing something big. We know what we have done to get here. We are mentally prepared and then we will see how far it takes us. But of course we dream of going far.”
A meeting with Switzerland in Saint Petersburg will be the next location they hope not to wake up.