Reports & Previews

Sweden - World Cup team preview

Even without the legendary Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden could surprise a few people at the World Cup beginning in Group F, which contains Germany, South Korea and Mexico.

When Ibrahimovic - Blagult's all-time leading scorer with 62 goals - retired from international football after Euro 2016, there was little pressure on the national team to do well.

Yet, in qualifying for the global showpiece Janne Andersson's side showed they were still competitive as they finished in second place behind France, and ahead of the Netherlands.

In the play-offs against another top nation, the Swedes then displayed real defensive grit and application to beat Italy over two legs and book their place in Russia.

The tactical approach employed by Andersson has not been pretty as it is largely defensive and utilises counter-attacking football.

During the qualification campaign, captain Andreas Granqvist has been paired with Manchester United's Victor Lindelof in central defence. Granqvist was voted Sweden's Player of the Season in 2017 - the first player to beat Ibrahimovic to the accolade since 2006.

However, the left-hand side of the defence has been an issue with Ludwig Augustinsson sometimes left isolated as RB Leipzig's Emil Forsberg prefers to push higher up the pitch to add creativity in the final third.

Forsberg can be a game-changer on his day, though his numbers in the Bundesliga were not as impressive as in 2016/17. In that season he led the league with an incredible 19 assists, although he managed just two last time out.

In midfield and attack Sweden are competitive without being world-beaters. In the centre of the park, Hamburg's Albin Ekdal can add a touch of class, though he struggled with injuries in 2017/18.

Meanwhile, further forward it seems Ola Toivonen and Marcus Berg will carry the load, despite for former struggling for playing time in Ligue 1 with Toulouse, whereas Berg plays his football in UAE with Al Ain.

Nonetheless, with defending world champions Germany expected to finish top in Group F, Sweden have a decent shot of securing second against teams with limited World Cup pedigree.

The Scandinavians begin their campaign on June 18 against South Korea at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Robin Olsen (Copenhagen), Karl-Johan Johnsson (Guingamp), Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Swansea).

Defenders: Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Victor Lindelof (Manchester United), Andreas Granqvist (Krasnador), Martin Olsson (Swansea), Ludwig Augustinsson (Werder Bremen), Filip Helander (Bologna), Emil Krafth (Bologna), Pontus Jansson (Leeds United).

Midfielders: Sebastian Larsson (Hull), Albin Ekdal (Hamburg), Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig), Gustav Svensson (Seattle Sounders), Oscar Hiljemark (Genoa), Viktor Claesson (Krasnador), Marcus Rohden (Crotone), Jimmy Durmaz (Toulouse).

Forwards: Marcus Berg (Al Ain), John Guidetti (Alaves), Ola Toivonen (Toulouse), Isaac Kiese Thelin (Beveren).