Sweden’s World Cup ends, but the journey continues

After a fantastic tournament, Sweden were knocked out of the World Cup, losing to England in the quarter-finals. Despite this anticlimax, Sweden fans should remain hopeful for the future, with Janne Andersson leading the line.

Sweden headed into the World Cup with more attention than usual, having knocked out Italy in the playoffs over two games. Despite this, not many had them advancing from the group, facing the likes of Germany and Mexico already in that stage.

However, Janne Andersson’s side proved to be up to the task as they finished first in the group, while Germany were knocked out after a loss to South Korea.

Going back in time, when Janne Andersson took over the side in the summer of 2016, the appointment was seen as the start of a new project for the country; rebuilding. Fans quickly understood, though, that Janne Andersson’s presence meant something else, seemingly filling the gap for the absence of Ibrahimovic, Källström and Isaksson who all left after the 2016 Euros.

In his first match as Sweden manager, the team managed a draw at home to the Netherlands, after Marcus Berg gave Sweden the lead in the first half. Since then, throughout the World Cup qualifiers, the Swedes incredibly enough managed to go on an unbeaten run at home. In fact, under Janne Andersson, they lost their first home game in March 2018, as Chile scored the winner in the last gasp of the game.

With that said, at the start of his run many didn’t think that this team would get to a World Cup quarter-final, especially after the failure in the 2016 Euros. However, along with his crew, Janne Andersson managed to build his own team, with no intentions of letting a single individual ruin the group dynamic that was quickly created.

And yes, there’s an elephant in the room; Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Enough of about that, though, the players quickly understood what they needed to do in order to succeed, as explained by Janne Andersson. Thanks to a team of scouts, the former Norrköping manager had enough material to create different game plans, although the strategy has always remained the same.

“It’s not about having the ball the most, but in the best way,” Janne Andersson has stated.

His philosophy is also proved by the statistics from the group stage of the World Cup, where Sweden are among the worst in most categories. When it comes to the number of attacks, Sweden (76) only had four more attacks than Panama (72) in the group stage, and still managed to progress to the round of 16. To further prove Andersson’s statement, Germany, who finished last, had 106 attacks, the most of any team in the group stage.

Now, some may argue that Sweden only scored six goals over five games. However, that’s mostly due to the fact that Sweden suffered from poor shooting, with loads of good chances squandered. This in itself doesn’t necessarily neglect Janne Andersson’s style, as his players still managed to create a lot of chances with an average of only 39% possession (in the group stage).

Now, Janne Andersson could face a few major changes heading into Nations League and the Euro qualifiers. Captain Andreas Granqvist will most likely retire from the national team, which will be a huge loss both on and off the pitch. Leeds defender Pontus Jansson will most likely take his spot, and possibly even the captain’s armband.

Up front, it’s unknown if the duo composed by Ola Toivonen and Marcus Berg will continue, as they are both aged 32. However, Sweden will be able to rely on a few players that won the U-21 Euros in 2015, including the strikers John Guidetti and Isaac Kiese-Thelin. In fact, six players from that golden team are already in the national team, while several others are knocking on the door.

For Sweden, there is no doubt that there are plenty of talented players available, but one doubt remains; are they good enough for the national team? As of now, it’s tough to tell, although Sweden fans should have no worries for the future. Janne Andersson has certainly proved his competence, managing extraordinary well with the resources available, and there’s no sign of him stopping now.

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