When Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his return to the international stage, hopes were raised that Sweden could push on from their promising showing at the 2018 World Cup.
The Swedes managed to make it to the quarter-finals of that tournament (losing 2-0 to England) even without their talismanic forward. With his U-turn on international retirement, the veteran’s comeback was heralded as being a huge bonus for the side heading into EURO 2020.
However, a knee injury has forced Ibrahimovic out of the spotlight, the team and perhaps back into international retirement. And so it falls to the rest of the squad to prove that their performance in their last tournament was no fluke.
Sweden will want to build on their performances at the the World Cup and not revert back to their previous form in the European Championship, where they have failed to make it out of group stages in their previous three tournament appearances.
In partnership with UEFA, we continue our series of EURO 2020 articles by examining Sweden in detail to see if any of their players can compete for a place in your Fantasy teams.
ROAD TO QUALIFICATION
SWEDEN’S EURO 2020 QUALIFICATION RECORD
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals for||Goals against||Clean sheets|
An impressive EURO 2020 qualifying campaign saw Sweden finish as runners-up to Spain (their imminent Group E opponents), who handed them their only defeat in a 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Sweden’s qualification meant that Norway, spearheaded by Erling Haaland, could only finish in third and were knocked out by Serbia in the play-offs.
Robin Quaison (€7.5m) was their top goalscorer, hitting the back of the net on five occasions.
Sweden set up in a 4-4-2 formation where defensive organisation and solid team structure is essential to the way they play. They are a well organised and compact team, difficult to break down, with no hesitancy to go direct when they need to. Players such as Albin Ekdal (€5.5m) and Kristoffer Ollson (€5.5m) are able to pull the strings in midfield and make things happen from the centre of the park and an abundance of forward options makes them a threat that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Sweden seemed to learn from shipping a combined six goals to Spain and Norway in their early exchanges in the qualifying group. In their next half-dozen matches, they only conceded two goals, 1-1 draws in the reverse fixtures to these teams, keeping clean sheets in their other fixtures.
- Most starts: Robin Olsen, Robin Quaison, Kristoffer Olsson (10), Sebastian Larrson, Marcus Berg, Alvin Ekdal, Mikael Lustig (all 8), Andreas Granqvist, Emil Forsberg (7)
- Most goals: Robin Quaison (5), Viktor Claesson, Alexander Isak (both 3), Marcus Berg, Sebastian Larrson (both 2)
- Most assists: Marcus Berg, Sebastian Larsson (both 2)
SWEDEN’S MATCHES IN 2020 AND 2021
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals for||Goals against||Clean sheets|
A pretty dismal set of results followed Sweden’s qualification to EURO 2020 and they were relegated from their Nations League group. It was however a particularly tough test for the Swedes, with a group containing the likes of France, Croatia and Portugal ultimately proving too much for “The Blue and Yellow”. They managed just one win (2-1 v Croatia) and only three goals – two of those came in the final match against France – with Viktor Claesson (€7m), Marcus Berg (€8.5m) and Quaison getting one each.
Fixtures have been kinder to Sweden in 2021 and they have won each of their five games. However, the likes of Georgia, Kosovo, Estonia and Armenia are perhaps not the best teams to judge Sweden’s potential on and Nations League results do raise concerns that they may not be able to really go toe to toe with Europe’s elite teams.
With Ibrahimovic missing the tournament after so much hype, attention will turn to some of Sweden’s other stars to pick up the mantle of the enigmatic centre-forward. There are some doubts about what the starting XI will be in the tournament, with the likes of Viktor Claesson (€7m) likely battling it out with Sebastian Larsson (€6m) for a right-wing berth – or at least shared minutes between the two.
A weight of expectation falls on the shoulders of 21-year-old Real Sociedad striker Alexander Isak (€8m) after a superb season in which he netted 17 goals in 34 appearance. The youngest goalscorer for the Swedish national team, Isak is an intelligent and fast striker who possesses great technical ability on the ball. At 6’2″, he possesses an aerial threat too and there are already comparisons being made to cult hero Ibrahimovic. Isak is yet to really get going for Sweden on the international stage, with just six goals in 22 appearances, but will be one to watch.
Winger Emil Forsberg (€7.5m) is perhaps the standout of the Swedish options at our disposal due to his monopoly of set pieces in the side. The RB Leipzig player has garnered a reputation as a dead-ball specialist, and has all but been confirmed to be on free-kicks, corners and penalty-taking duties for the Swedes. At 29 years old, he is in arguably the peak of his career and looks a key figure for the side who will be hopeful of at least getting out of their group and seeing how far they can go.
In defence, Victor Lindelöf (€5.5m) is becoming a household name due to his appearances for Manchester United and is handed what looks to be an expensive price tag for a fairly unfancied team in the tournament. While other defender spots are seemingly up for grabs, right-back Mikael Lustig (€5m) can be relied on for security of starts. He is perhaps a better pick than Lindelöf if you are looking to invest in the Swedish defence as he has a slightly kinder price.
Everton’s back-up goalkeeper Robin Olsen (€5.0m) will start between the sticks and could be an option once Matchweek 1 is done and dusted, with games against Poland and Slovakia to follow.
If you’re looking for a punt, Juventus star Dejan Kulusevski (€7.0m) may be one to consider. An exceptional dribbler of the ball, Kulusevski scored and assisted in the 2-1 Coppa Italia final victory for Juventus and was awarded the Serie A Best Young Player of the Season while at Parma in 2019/20.
At just 21, Kulusevski is already an exciting player to watch and may even operate as one of the two forwards in Sweden’s system, making him a tantalizing “out-of-position” prospect as he is classified as a midfielder in the UEFA Fantasy Football game. However, do note that Kulusevski is competing with the likes of Isak, Berg, Quaison and Forsberg for a spot in the team – and could find himself being utilized as an impact sub.
Indeed, the plethora of options available to Sweden does dampen the appeal of investing in their forward line. Quaison in particular has a good record for Sweden in recent games but 34-year-old Berg is a superb header of the ball and may compliment Isak perfectly if the two do start together. It’s difficult to predict exactly which players will lead the line for Sweden, so caution is advised.
In defence, we may see either Marcus Danielson (€4.5m) or Pontus Jansson (€4.5m) emerge as cut-price options in the backline as partners to Lindelof but nothing is certain with Filip Helander (€5.0m) also in contention. Danielson has however started the last two friendlies and managed to score against Armenia in their most recent match, so may be winning this particular battle.
FanTeam Price Corner
A tough opening tie against Spain does dampen the appeal of Swedish players but winnable games against Poland and Slovakia immediately follow so investment for Matchweeks 2 and 3 may be profitable.
Given his set-piece assignments, Forsberg looks a steal at just €5.5m in FanTeam. Isak has also been very kindly priced (€5.5m). Kulusevski (€6m) has been handed the highest price tag of all attacking options and with his insecurity of starts is probably one to avoid.
In defence, all Swedish assets have been priced at €4.5m meaning that Lindelöf is a serious option, along with Lustig. Goalkeeper Olsen is also €4.5m and is also one to consider when building your squad.
Group E: Spain | Sweden | Poland | Slovakia
Group F: Hungary | Portugal | France | Germany