World Cup 2018: Why Sweden can do better than many expect

REUTERS/Darren Staples

Sweden weren't expecting much at this World Cup. Honourable losses to Germany and Mexico were about the height of it, with a victory against South Korea offering the promise of consolation. 

Few predicted the headlines and drama that have swept through the camp ever since, from coaches being accused of spying on opponents to players suffering racial abuse on social media. Fewer still predicted that Blagult would qualify from their group at the expense of the reigning world champions.

Yet here Sweden are, preparing for a last-16 clash with Switzerland. A tournament that promised so little could end up providing so much, with Janne Andersson's side within touching distance of a best World Cup finish since USA 1994.

No superstars

There are no Thomas Ravellis, Henrik Larssons or Zlatan Ibrahimovics here. That, however, is the strength of a team that is held together more sturdily than the hull of a Viking longboat.

Sweden are a real unit, whose cohesion was demonstrated yet again by a 3-0 dismemberment of Mexico. Days after being sucker punched by Germany, Andersson's warriors offered 90 minutes of guts and glory.

REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

That's not to say his this team lacks talent. Ludwig Augustinsson was the first name on the scoresheet against El Tri, but he has made a name for himself more as a buccaneering left back with an eye for a cross.

Xherdan Shaqiri has never been the most scrupulous in defence, meaning the ageing Stephan Lichtsteiner will have to contain Augustinsson himself.

Oozing quality

That might have been achievable, had the new Arsenal signing not had to contend with Emil Forsberg at the same time. RB Leipzig's playmaker oozes quality, and his ability to hold up the ball and bring teammates into play has proved vital, thus far.

Switzerland are an impressive outfit, a multi-kulti triumph. The one thing that Vladimir Petkovic's side lacks, however, is a decent forward.

REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

Haris Seferovic seems to appear only at World Cups, an anonymity that pops up in gleaming stadia with the sole aim of missing chances. Sweden, who have already wrapped up Mario Gomez and Javier Hernandez like pickled herrings, will neuter Seferovic easily.

Not invincible 

Should they progress against Switzerland, none of Sweden's potential opponents will should strike fear into their hearts. Belgium are the strongest outfit in a gaggle that also contains England, Japan and Colombia, but even the Red Devils have flaws.

Andreas Granqvist and Victor Lindelof are hewn of the smarts and sinew necessary to repel Romelu Lukaku, whilst Forsberg can be every bit as inventive as Kevin De Bruyne. At every stage, Sweden have been written off. At every stage, they have thrown mud in the faces of their detractors.

REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

"They were so disciplined, so loyal in everything they did," Andersson marvelled to journalists after the Mexico game. Disciplined? Yes. Loyal? Absolutely. Above all, however, this side is dangerous. Switzerland may yet be their latest scalp.

How far do you think Sweden will go? Let us know below!

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 13 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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