World Cup Group F preview: Sweden return with great ambition
BEIJING, June 4 -- 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 116 appearances. He announced his retirement from the national team after Euro 2016.
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 Zone qualification. 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 and defense. 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.
Their tournament 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.
(Source_title：World Cup Group F preview: Sweden return with great ambition)