After enduring the heartbreak of a shootout loss to Canada in the Tokyo Olympics soccer final in 2021, Sweden is fueled by a resolute determination to outshine themselves at the upcoming Women’s World Cup. Their ultimate goal is to provide their captain, Caroline Seger, with the remarkable send-off she truly deserves.
Seger, the instrumental presence in Sweden’s midfield, embodies her name’s meaning of victory. At 38 years old, she has enjoyed a glittering career, yet a gold medal at a major tournament with her country remains the missing piece. However, her fitness poses a significant concern as she races against time to recover. “If everything goes well, she will step up her form during the tournament, and then everyone will see how important a player like that is,” emphasized Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson.
While Sweden has historically been a dominant force in women’s football, their only triumph in a major tournament came at the European Championship in 1984, with their best World Cup result being runners-up in 2003, losing to Germany in the final. Nevertheless, the absence of winners’ medals does little to dampen the unwavering expectations of Swedish fans, who consistently consider their team among the tournament favorites.
Optimistically, Gerhardsson acknowledged the positive impact of expectations, demands, and pressure. “It’s better than nobody caring,” he expressed with a smile during an interview at the Swedish FA headquarters in Solna. Having overseen a generational shift in recent years, with influential players like defender Nilla Fischer retiring and goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl making way for younger talents, the 63-year-old coach is ready to guide his team to success. Drawn in Group G alongside South Africa, Italy, and Argentina, Gerhardsson will rely on the attacking prowess of players like Barcelona’s Fridolina Rolfo and Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius to secure crucial early goals, which he believes are pivotal in every match.
Reflecting on the significance of scoring first, Gerhardsson highlighted the Euro 2020 tournament. “I saw 27, 28 games, and the team that scored first won maybe 24 of them. If you can work out how to score the first goal in every game, you can coach any team you want,” he emphasized.
To enhance their chances of achieving this goal, Gerhardsson’s hopes rest on Seger’s fitness. Despite her age and recent string of injuries, Seger’s exceptional passing abilities remain intact and offer the team the best opportunity to unlock opposition defenses.
While Gerhardsson refrained from disclosing the team’s specific objectives for the World Cup, he eagerly spoke about the boundless possibilities that await them in Australia and New Zealand, where the tournament will be held.
“When there is an opportunity to do things, I feel this way ahead of every championship—we can win it, and that’s enough for me,” Gerhardsson concluded, brimming with optimism.