Canada’s women’s national team will resume their commitments in the 2019 Women’s World Cup today when they face Sweden in their round-of-16 tie, eyeing a second straight quarter-final appearance.
The Canadians finished second in Group E after falling to the Netherlands, the current European champions, in their final group game.
In facing the Swedes, Kenneth Heiner-Moller’s clan will be clashing with a very tough team who actually tried to place second in Group F by leaving majority of their veterans on the bench in their group-winning decider against the United States, in order to avoid a potential quarter-final clash with the hosts France.
The last time Canada and Sweden faced off on the world’s biggest stage was in 2003 when the Swedes broke Canada’s hearts in the semi-finals, in the United States.
While in 2011, Sweden had made it to the semi-finals before losing to Japan, in the last edition, hosted by Canada, they exited the tournament early and in bruises after a heavy 4-1 defeat against Germany.
Here, Waking the Red runs the rule over Sweden as we are nearing crunch time for our Canadian team.
Sweden had a rather comfortable journey in the group stages, as they were drawn with two of the lowest-ranked teams in this year’s edition — Chile and Thailand.
In the Chile game, which was interrupted for a long time due to bad weather, Sweden picked up the three points when the game resumed, thanks to stalwart Kosovare Asllani (more on her later) and Madelen Janogy.
The latter, in fact, could be Sweden’s wildcard as although she is not a starter for them, whenever she is on the pitch she always makes sure to stamp her mark — case in point against the South Americans:
Madelen Janogy para definir el #CHISWE ⚽️— Copa Mundial Femenina de la FIFA (@fifacom_es) June 11, 2019
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They conceded three goals in three games, two against the US and one, well, against Thailand — the only goal scored by the Asian side and which was well-celebrated by them (rightly so, after their 13-0 thrashing against the U.S. in their group opener).
Their backline, led by captain Nilla Fischer, who left German champions VfL Wolfsburg at the end of the season, is very physical and rarely penetrable, yet goals are still possible, especially if their defensive line is very high up the field.
At the heart of the midfield, we find Caroline Seger, one of the most elegant and creative midfielders in circulation.
The now 34-year-old has been so effective for her side so far especially in terms of passing.
Per Chris Henderson of inStat, in the previous 26 straight games prior to the United States appointment, in which Seger played more than 30 minutes, she completed at least 84% of her passes. Everything goes through her practically.
At club level, she played with some of the best clubs including Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon and now, she’s headed back home to ply her trade at Rosengard, who are frequent participants in the Women’s Champions League.
One cannot write about this Sweden team without mentioning Asllani. The forward, now 29 years old and in the prime of her career, was called to deliver for her side on the big stage and so far she has not disappointed, scoring against both Chile and Thailand.
While she is a proper predator inside the 18-yard box, Asllani has also developed other skills throughout her career — in particular, she is very fast in possession, capable of winning one-on-one duels, and her soccer IQ is very high.
She is currently on the books Sweden’s Linkopings after spells at Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City as well.
The aforementioned Fischer and Asllani are some of the most acclaimed female athletes in their native Sweden.
Testament to this are the statues that were built to pay tribute to them prior to this France expedition, even though some vandalism acts have seen Fischer’s statue break down.