Organisation and discipline key to success
Sweden booked their place at the World Cup following a second-place finish behind France in qualifying Group A. That was the best that was expected of them with Les Bleus bankers to lead the race, but they must be given credit for holding off Holland who ended back in third, eliminated on goal difference only.
Six wins, one draw and three defeats was their tally with 26 goals scored and only nine conceded. That defensive record placed them amongst the best at that stage of the competition, but they’ll need more of that organisation and discipline to have any hope in Russia. Blagult have been dropped into pool F alongside Germany, Mexico and South Korea. That line-up suggests they’ll do well to finish second again.
There’s 200/1 in places on them winning the World Cup but we’re not interested in snapping at that lure – it’s a big price for a reason. Qualification to the knock-out stage looks a better bet with 6/4 trading.
Below you’ll find three players that’ll be key to any success Janne Andersson’s side has…..
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Lustig has the winning habit
An important part of that miserly defence that saw off Italy over two legs, knocking the former winners out thanks to a 1-0 aggregate score back in November. Johansson scored the only goal of the game at Friends Arena but it was the performance of Lindelof and co at Guiseppe Meazza that saw them over the line. Two games, two clean-sheets.
The 23-year-old has cut a frustrated figure at Old Trafford for much of this season and has been used sparingly by manager Jose Mourinho, rating as an unused substitute during his team’s shock 1-0 defeat to Brighton in May. That may make coach Andersson think twice about using him but it’s unlikely as he’s a gifted player who’s on the books of United because he deserves to be. If he’s fit and match sharp he’ll play but must grab any chance with both hands.
Another man who’s set for a busy summer trying to keep the opposition at bay but another who will be delighted to be part of it all. Lustig has enjoyed an incredible season at Celtic with The Bhoys wiping the floor with great rivals Rangers during their march to a seventh Premiership title in-a-row. Lustig has done a job for the Glaswegians at right back and will arrive in Russia with the confidence that comes from having a winner’s medal in his back pocket.
The Umea born player made headlines for his unique celebration when stealing a policeman’s hat during Celtic’s title-winning party but he’s serious about his job and boasts the fitness needed to chip in at both ends of the park, defending goal but getting forward as often as possible. He’ll play an important roll in helping Sweden hit on the counter with his pace and although he managed only one club goal this season he’s more about providing the attack with ammunition.
31-year-old Toulouse player Toivonen can fill in as an attacking midfielder or striker and that versatility will help his cause. He has scored 13 goals in his first 57 caps and is no stranger to hitting the net in French football for his full-time employers either, grabbing seven in 53. Followers of English football may remember him from a brief spell at Sunderland during the 2015/16 campaign when at the Stadium of Light on loan.
Has represented his country at every level from Under-17 through to the senior squad but this will surely represent his final chance to have any say in a World Cup tournament. His team have a real chance of getting through the first three games but to do so they must remain tight at the back and take the chances that come their way in attack. Is Toivonen the man to fire them to glory? He scored in a 2-1 defeat to Chile earlier this year and another in the 8-0 destruction of Luxembourg in October.