BEIJING China (Xinhua) --
After an absence of 12 years, Sweden will return
to the World Cup with great ambition even if they are without
their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
As a representative
of Nordic soccer, Sweden’s best performance in the World Cup
came in 1958 when they took second place after losing 5-2 to
Brazil on home soil. Sweden completed another splendid
performance when they placed third in 1994.
However, after being
eliminated in the last 16 by the hosts Germany in 2006, the Blue
and Yellows missed out the World Cup two times in a row.
Even Ibrahimovic couldn’t rescue the team from being knocked out
of football’s flagship event.
As the greatest
player in Swedish football history, Ibrahimovic is the Swedish
national team’s all-time leading scorer, managing 62 goals in
He announced his retirement from the national team after Euro
After entering the
“post Ibrahimovic” era, Sweden stunned the rest of the world by
finishing second in the group stage of the World Cup European
In the following playoffs, Janne Andersson’s side continued
their shock performance to eliminate Italy 1-0 on aggregate,
moving to the finals stage of the World Cup.
There have been
rumors that Ibrahimovic, who is still in good condition, was
likely to return to the national squad, but the team decided to
travel to Russia without him.
If he had returned, Ibrahimovic would unquestionably have been
the leader of the team, but there is a school of thought that
his teammates are often too reliant on him to produce the goals.
Although his goals
have rescued them on numerous occasions, his insistence on
taking, and often wasting, every free-kick is a source of
exasperation for fans and teammates alike.
Under Andersson, the
players have been capable of playing a balanced style of attack
In the final 23-man squad, 27-year-old RB Leipzig winger Emil
Forsberg is the fulcrum of Sweden’s attacking play, while the
performances of central defensive pair Andreas Granqvist and
Victor Lindelof also play an important role for the team.
opener is against South Korea on June 18 and will be followed by
a clash with defending champions Germany.
Assuming Sweden can collect four points from the previous two
matches, their last group game with Mexico could decide their
fate in the tournament, and it seems like that the clash is
going to be the difference between a place in the next stage of
the tournament, or an early exit.
World Cup Group G preview:
lions tasked with avenging 2014 shame
By Wang Zijiang and Larry Neild BEIJING
China (Xinhua) -- Four years ago,
there was a collective groan from the whole country as England
were spectacularly knocked out of the Brazil World Cup at the
It was the first
time England had been knocked out in the group stages since
1958, and the first time they have been eliminated after just
Four years on, Roy
Hodgson’s successor Gareth Southgate hopes that among his 23-man
squad there will be a winning 11 able to restore honor and
Since taking charge of the team, Southgate has lost only two of
the 16 World Cup preliminaries, notching up eight wins and six
himself competed at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea,
has named what he believes is a balanced squad with a mix of
experience, character and youth.
youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold, at 19, is the youngest member
of the squad, while also gaining his first cap is Burnley’s
26-year old goalkeeper Nick Pope.
Three 30 something
players bring that helping of experience, with Chelsea defender
Gary Cahill, at 32, topping the most-capped list with 58
selections for England.
Manchester United’s Ashley Young, also 32, has earned 33 caps,
and between them they have netted the ball 11 times for England.
Forward James Vardy,
at 31, is the next oldest player with 21 caps to his credit, as
well as seven goals.
Southgate has also included a sprinkling of younger players with
just a small handful of caps, like Chelsea’s 22-year-old
twice-capped midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Everton goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, 24, will also be collecting
his third cap.
“I believe this is a
squad which we can be excited about. It is a young group, but
with some really important senior players so I feel the balance
of the squad is good, both in terms of its experience, its
character and also the positional balance,” Southgate said.
his team as one with a lot of energy and athleticism, but with
players that are equally comfortable in possession.
“I think people can
see the style of play we’ve been looking to develop. The
selection process has been over months really, it’s not just
been the last few weeks,” he added.
Southgate has gone for youth and hope over tried, tested and
failed in his 23-man squad for the World Cup.
Joe Hart and Jack
Wilshere are out but Alexander-Arnold, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 22,
and Marcus Rashford, 20, are in.
England will open
their World Cup campaign against Tunisia in Volgograd on June
They will also meet Group G rivals Panama and Belgium, in the
hope that the misfortunes of 2014 will not be repeated.