Forget everything you think you know about Sweden.
Okay, fine, you can keep the modular furniture, Eurovision bangers and meatballs but forget everything you think you know about Swedish women’s football.
For a nation that used to pride itself on defence above all else, the slow build-up and minimisation of space was the old Swedish hallmark. Maybe not quite cowardly but certainly conservative under Pia Sundhage, Sweden played in the most natural and logical way to them; sometimes it worked, other times it did not. Since Sundhage left her role as the head coach of the Swedish national team, Blågult have embraced the new and the attacking.
When Peter Gerhardsson was first unveiled as the new manager (at the end of 2016), his appointment was meet with warmth and excitement, the former striker would be bringing in a new brand, vaulting the team into the current century. The new attacking philosophy something that’s been happily accepted by the team in theory even if the practice is still lagging behind.
Building on the solid defensive foundations, the 59-year-old wants the team to go forward from there, playing a high-possession game that presses their opposition to the limit. The style on show far more during qualification and Sweden’s friendlies over the last two years than during the World Cup this summer. And whilst the team haven’t quite been the free-flowing, rampaging team Gerhardsson would have liked, there’s been a clear departure from the ultra-defensive and stifled side many saw during the Rio Olympics.
With another year until the Tokyo Olympics, it’s possible the new-look Sweden will truly arrive next year. This will be the team Gerhardsson wants to field— one that has the safety net of a strong defence but the belief to attack with panache. They’ll be led by coach keen to teach pressing and movement but let the natural creative talents of the players at his disposal show.
After an ultimately disappointing World Cup in which the team struggled to find their fluency in attack, the Third Place final in the blistering heat of Nice will be the last thing the Scandinavians want. Even so, it provides one last chance this year to show the world just how far the team has come.