Sweden are often seen as one of the dark horses of international competition, always being there or thereabouts and often posing a real threat.
Sweden's national side have consistently been either among the world's best soccer teams or among the best of the rest. In other words, they have often qualified for major tournaments and they have occasionally challenged for silverware.
They finished second at the 1958 World Cup on home soil and made the semi-finals in 1938, 1950 and 1994.
Sweden did not qualify for the European Championships until 1992, but at that tournament, they made up for lost time by reaching the semi-finals on home soil. They have now appeared at seven European Championships altogether, including Euro 2020.
In recent times, they have produced iconic players such as Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. These players have had a major impact on world soccer, particularly Ibrahimovic, who is the enigmatic scorer of spectacular goals.
The formation and early years of the Swedish national team
The Swedish national men's team played their first international against Norway in 1908, winning 11-3 in Gothenburg. They competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics, where they lost 12-1 to Great Britain, their heaviest defeat of all-time.
Sweden went on to play in the 1912 Olympics as hosts, the 1920 Olympics and the 1924 Olympics, where they picked up the bronze medal.
The team was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the 1934 FIFA World Cup in their first appearance in the competition.
After qualifying for the 1938 World Cup in France, Sweden were scheduled to play Austria, but Austria were unable to participate in the match after being invaded by Germany, so Sweden marched on to the quarter-finals, where they beat Cuba 8-0.
However, Sweden lost 5-1 to Hungary in the semi-finals and 4-2 to Brazil in the third-place playoff.
At the 1950 World Cup, Sweden did not allow any professionals to represent them, so went into the tournament with only amateur players.
Sweden beat Italy 3-2 in Sao Paulo and then drew 2-2 against Paraguay, advancing to the next round. There, they lost 7-1 to Brazil in front of a crowd of 138,000, which is still a record for a game involving the Swedish national team.
Sweden then lost 3-2 to Uruguay and beat Spain 3-1, finishing the tournament in third place and as the best-placed European team.
Two years later, they picked up the bronze medal at the 1952 Olympic Games.
Sweden did not qualify for the 1954 World Cup, but they hosted the 1958 tournament. They were drawn into a group with Mexico, Hungary and Wales and professional players were once again allowed to represent the Swedish national team.
Sweden beat Mexico 3-0 and then Hungary 2-1 before drawing 0-0 with Wales, meaning they did enough to advance to the next round. In the quarter-finals, Sweden faced the USSR and won 2-0. A crowd of around 50,000 people watched Sweden beat West Germany 3-1 in the semi-final to set up a final date with Brazil.
In the final, Sweden lost 5-2 to Brazil in front of around 52,000 people. Brazil honoured their opponents after winning their first ever World Cup title by sprinting around the field with a Swedish flag.
Sweden struggled in the next three decades, struggling to qualify for major tournaments and seldom going far in the tournaments they did manage to reach. At the 1974 World Cup, they were eliminated in the second round, but that was their best performance after 1958 until 1994.
Sweden and the 1994 World Cup
Sweden began to improve in the 1990s. As hosts, they were finally able to play in their first ever European Championships in 1992. Here, Sweden advanced from a group with Denmark, France and England and moved into the semi-finals, where they lost 3-2 to Germany. This remains their best performance at a European Championships to date.
At the 1994 World Cup in the United States, Sweden participated after topping their qualifying group ahead of Bulgaria and France.
They were drawn in Group B alongside Brazil, Cameroon and Russia. The first game was not an ideal performance from Sweden, but they were able to equalise late on in a 2-2 draw with Cameroon.
Sweden also went behind in their next match against Russia, but a Tomas Brolin penalty and a brace from Martin Dahlin gave them a 3-1 comeback win.
In Sweden's last group stage match against Brazil, goals from Kennet Andersson and Romario resulted in a 1-1 draw.
Sweden beat Saudi Arabia 3-1 in their first knockout match in Dallas with two goals from Andersson and one from Dahlin. They then beat Romania on penalties in the quarter-finals after a 2-2 draw, largely thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli.
In Los Angeles, Sweden faced Brazil in the semi-finals, but they were beaten 1-0 as Jonas Thern was sent off and Romario scored the only goal of the match in the 80th minute.
In the third-place playoff, Sweden beat Bulgaria 4-0 in New York City to clinch bronze.
The current era for the Swedish national team
Sweden have been regular participants at international tournaments since the 1994 World Cup, but have not managed to come as close to winning one as they did on that occasion.
They did not qualify for Euro '96 or the 1998 World Cup, but they did reach Euro 2000, crashing out at the group stage.
In the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, Sweden made the round of 16, and they followed that up with a quarter-final exit at Euro 2004 and another round-of-16 elimination at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, arguably Sweden's greatest ever soccer star, had already begun to make a name for himself in Italy by this time, but despite his spectacular goals and consistent form, he was unable to turn Sweden into a superpower with a winning edge.
Sweden were eliminated in the group stage of each of the next three European Championships, although they made the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Brazil without Ibrahimovic.
Sweden national team legends
Apart from Ibrahimovic, some of the most recognisable players to have played for the Swedish national team include the likes of Ravelli, Henrik Larsson, Seb Larsson, Freddie Ljungberg and Gunnar Nordahl.
Main rivals of the Sweden national team
Sweden have a fierce rivalry with Denmark and are also rivals of Brazil, having played them in many important fixtures. However, the rivalry with local neighbours Denmark is far more intense.
Sweden and Denmark have played each other 107 times, with the Swedes winning 46 and losing 41. There have been 20 draws. The teams first met in 1913, when the Danes hammered the Swedes 8-0 in Copenhagen. Denmark won the last meeting too - 2-0 on November 11, 2020, in Brondby.
Key games between the two sides include at Euro 1992, when Sweden beat Denmark 1-0, and a 2-2 draw played out at Euro 2004.
The teams have also met in various qualifying campaigns for major championships, with the most controversial taking place on June 2, 2007, ahead of Euro 2008. Sweden went three goals up inside the first 26 minutes, but the Danes rallied and clawed the game back to 3-3. In the 89th minute, referee Herbert Fandel awarded Sweden a penalty after he had dismissed Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen for punching Swedish striker Markus Rosenberg in the stomach. This resulted in a Danish supporter running onto the pitch and attacking Fandel, with the referee subsequently abandoning the match. Sweden were later awarded a 3-0 victory.
The fanbase of the Sweden national team
Sweden is a country with a high interest in sport. Soccer is one of the most popular in the country alongside handball, gymnastics, golf and athletics.
The Sweden fans turn up to tournaments in huge numbers and are often highly visible as they were blue and gold, the colours of their national flag. At the 2006 World Cup, the Swedish fans were voted the best, due to the massive numbers in attendance as well as their friendly attitude.
- Jun 18, 2021
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