Sweden won the gold in UEFA Under 21 European Championship!

In the 1948 Olympics, players like Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm got the only gold medal a Swedish football team has ever got in football. Since then, the medals have been few, with a silver at the World Cup at home 1958 and the bronze medal in the 1994 World Cup as the biggest successes. However, no gold medals since 1948. Until now. Thanks to a bunch of young players from different backgrounds and a dedicated coach who believed in his team, Sweden now has a gold medal from the 2015 FIFA Under 21 European Championships.

Aftermath of the 1994 Bronze medal

Sweden had a hard time building on the bronze in the 1994 FIFA World Cup in USA. They failed to qualify to both the 1996 European Championships and the 1998 World Cup. In the 2000 European Championships the team only got one point in the group stage. However, in the 2002 World Cup and the 2004 European Championships the team reached play offs once again. Sweden also qualified for the 2006 World Cup, the 2008 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup under coach Lars Lagerbäck who now coaches Iceland’s football team. Under the new coach Erik Hamrén Sweden qualified to the 2012 European Championships but failed to reach the 2014 World Cup after losing the playoff qualifier against Portugal. Right now Sweden are on their way to qualify for the 2016 World Cup in a relatively easy group, with the hardest opponents being Russia and Austria. However, many people have wondered what will happen when superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic are putting his shoes on the shelf. Questions about how things are going with regrowth and development of talents are being raised and for a long time it seemed like the rest of Europe and the world is running far ahead of us, both in terms of ranking but also in producing new talents. This changed June 30, 2015.

Sweden won the gold in the 2015 U21 European Championship

Sweden’s U21 team barely made it to the European Championship. They played tight qualification games against Turkey and France that they in the end managed to win. In the tournament on beforehand they were seen as the number four team in their group that consisted of Portugal, Italy and England. However, in the first game, Sweden managed to turn 0-1 to a 2-1 victory against Italy. Something was up with this team that constantly found ways to win. However, in game two, a late goal by England forced a dramatic last round in the group phase. Sweden managed to get 1-1 against Portugal, the same team that they would later beat in the final, which was enough to reach the playoffs. In the semifinal, their nordic rivals Denmark were favourites after winning their group. However, two quick goals in the first half meant 2-0 to Sweden after 45 minutes of play. Although Denmark got their chances and also a 1-2 goal, Sweden prevailed and won by 4-1. In the final, the odds were in Portugal’s favor after beating Germany in the semifinal 5-0. What would stop them from getting the easy win against the Swedes? The answer would be this: A blue and yellow team machine with great support from the crowd and a smart coach. A dedicated team consisting of players from different background but with one goal: To play the best football of their lives.

The final was decided by penalties

The first half was dominated by Portugal. Their passing and technical skills made them have the most of the possession and momentum. However, Sweden’s defenses were intact after 45 minutes of play. In the second half, the Portuguese started to act a bit nervous, shaken by the moment. Why couldn’t they score like they did in the semifinal? Sweden got the momentum and started to move the play up field. Attackers John Guidetti and Isaac Kiese Thelin got more chances to work with. However, after 90 minutes of play, the game was a goalless tie. 15 + 15 minutes of overtime awaited. In the overtime, Sweden kept their possession from the second half and Portugal’s players looked tired. However, there were no goals scored and the game had to be decided by a penalty shootout.

John Guidetti scored on the first penalty, distinctively and high. 1-0 Sweden.
Gonçalo Paciência tied on a just as good penalty. 1-1.
Isaac Kiese Thelin made no mistake. 2-1,
Tozé tied to 2-2.
Ludwig Augustinsson gave Sweden the lead once again. 3-2.
Ricardo Esgaio missed his penalty. 3-2 Sweden after three rounds. Two rounds to go.
Abdul Khalili, who had done a good match overall, missed his penalty. He tried to trick Portugal’s goalie, but ended up getting tricked himself.
João Mário scored for 3-3 with one round to go
Victor Nilsson Lindelöf shot a solid penalty 4-3. If Portugal were to miss the next penalty, the gold would go to Sweden.
Patrik Carlgren in the Swedish goal goes right and make the save on William Carvalhos penalty! Sweden won the 2015 U21 UEFA European Championship!

What this means for Sweden

The Swedish people have to wait for a long time between the successes in football. This time, the success meant a gold medal won by a team that had faith in each other and strived towards the same direction. No matter what background the players had or what the surname on their sweaters were, they were united in a common cause and found ways to win. In a time when the social climate is getting rougher, and the countries’ football is being questioned, this tournament gave Sweden hope. Hope for a future, where no matter who you are or where you are from, as long as you are willing to contribute, you will prevail and contribute to a society filled with joy and healthy competition instead of rivalry and misery.

These are the players who played the final under coach Håkan Ericson:

Goalie: Patrik Carlgren

Defenders: Victor Lindelöf, Alexander Milošević, Filip Helander, Ludwig Augustinsson, Joseph Baffo (substituted in 2nd half)

Midfield: Oscar Lewicki, Oscar Hiljemark, Abdullah Khalili, Simon Tibbling, Robin Quaison (substituted in 2nd half)

Attackers: John Guidetti, Isaac Kiese Thelin

Sweden and Swedish football thanks you. You have given the nation and one of our biggest sports hope.

Semifinals in Copa América and FIFA Women’s World Cup, final in the U21 European Championships

The play offs in the football tournaments this summer continuous. Four teams are ready for semifinals in Copa América and FIFA Women’s World Cup, while Sweden and Portugal will play the final in the FIFA Under 21 European Championships.

Argentina favourites for winning Copa América

The quarterfinals in Copa América have been played. Both Argentina’s and Brazil’s matches had to be decided by penalty shootouts. While Argentina came out on top against Colombia, Brazil lost against Paraguay. Chile beat Uruguay in a match that will mostly be remembered for a disgusting move from Chile’s Gonzalo Jara against Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani. While Cavani got a red card for slapping Jara, anyone that sees the clip below will understand why Cavani reacted the way he did. In the semifinals Chile will play against Peru June 30th, who won against Bolivia 3-1. Argentina will play Paraguay July 1st. From these teams, Lionel Messi’s Argentina are probably the strongest team, even if they have had problems getting their goal scoring going.

Germany eliminated France in the best game of the Women’s World Cup so far

In the Women’s World Cup in Canada the quarterfinals have been played and we have seen some tight matches, all decided by the odd goal, except for the match between Germany and France which had to be decided by penalty shootout. Carli Lloyd scored the only goal between USA and China in the 51:st minute. Japan continuous to win by the odd goal, beating Australia by 1-0. England eliminated the host nation Canada with a solid 2-1 win.

The match between France and Germany really was something to remember. France dominated the first half by playing a quick and creative offensive game. Germany was under pressure and it was pure luck that the standing after the first half was 0-0. In the second half, Germany could move the game up fields a bit, but could not produce any really chances on their offense. Instead, France scored 1-0 in the 64th minute. As the game progressed, it looked like France should come out on top. However, in a German attack, the ball hit the arm of a France defender which led to a penalty shot. Celia Sasic did no mistake and the match was tied 1-1 in the 84th minute. 30 minutes of overtime was ahead, and the phase continued to be high. Players limbed, bled and fought all over the field. France was closest to get a decider at the end of the second overtime quarter but failed to convert. Instead, it would take a shootout to core a winner.

In the shootout, the quality of the game was still high. We got to see hard, well placed penalty kicks. After four rounds all penalties were scored. Sasic scored her second goal of the game in the fifth. The last shooter for France was 21-year old Claire Lavogez. She was under pressure to score against 36-year old German veteran Nadine Angerer. However, her penalty was weak, Angerer throwed herself in the right direction and Germany prevailed. This was by far the best match of the tournament so far. High phase, great defense, goaltending and battles all over the field.

Germany will face team USA in the semifinal June 30 and Japan will play England July 1.

Sweden versus Portugal in the U21 final

In the European U21 Championships, Sweden will play the final against Portugal. Portugal are favourites after crushing Germany 5-0 in the semi final while Sweden made sure to score on all their chances against their nordic neighbours Denmark, winning 4-1. Sweden were underdogs in the semifinal and are underdogs in the final. If they win it will be a sensational victory for Swedish football who has been struggling to produce new talents from the generation after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson, Fredrik Ljungberg and other players. No matter how the final will end, there is hope for a bright future for Swedish football!

Summer of football/soccer 2015: play offs!

Fotbolls-EM

In 2015 three major football tournaments are played around the world: FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, Under 21 European Championships in Czech Republic and Copa América in Chile. The playoffs have begun in all tournaments:

FIFA Women’s World Cup

The first round of the play offs (16) has been played and with Swedish eyes we can state that Sweden sadly didn’t went through to the quarter finals this time. They got beat by Germany 4-1 fair and square and the yellow and blues didn’t reach normal standard in this tournament. However, since many other European teams also didn’t make it to the next round, Sweden will be able to qualify to the Olympic games in Brazil 2016. The qualifiers are played between Sweden, Norway (who got beat by England 2-1), Netherlands (lost against Japan 2-1) and Switzerland (lost against the host nation Canada 1-0). In the other matches, China won against the only African team in the play offs, Cameroon, 1-0. United States eliminated Colombia 2-0 and Australia managed to eliminated Brazil 1-0 which means there are no South American teams left in the tournament. France won against South Korea 3-0.

This gives us the following quarterfinals:

China – USA
Germany – France
Australia – Japan
England – Canada

While we though Norway would reach the finals in an earlier post, now we have to replace them with Japan. However, Germany still stands as heavy favourites to the gold.

U21 European Championships

Unlike in the Women’s World Cup, in the European U21 Championships Sweden have made success with a second place in their group, which means a) semifinal against Denmark and b) a spot in the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil where the team might get a supreme reinforcement in Zlatan Ibrahimovic (every team in the tournament can have three players over 21 years of age). The other semifinal is played between Portugal and Germany. Both matches are played June 27. The final is played July 5.

Copa América

The play offs in Copa América have just begun. We will update the results in a later post as the quarterfinals progress. In the first matches Chile and Peru have advanced by beating Uruguay and Bolivia. In the other half of the play off tree, Argentina will play Colombia and Brazil Paraguay. Chances are we will see Lionel Messi face a Brazil without suspended Neymar in the semifinal.

Football/soccer, summer 2015

This is an old post describing football events of 2015. The winners of the below tournaments were:

Copa América: Chile
U21 European Championship: Sweden!
FIFA Women’s World Cup: Team USA
UEFA 2016: Portugal

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Before 2015 many of us thought that this summer would become a middle-year between FIFA World Cup 2014 and the 2016 UEFA Championships. That’s not quite right. In this post we summarize the hottest tournaments of summer 2015: Copa América, U21-European Championships, FIFA Women’s World Cup and the UEFA qualifiers. Below we describe each tournament shortly with dates and links to more info.

Copa América

Description: Copa América is the South American championships of football. This years the tournament is held in Chile and you have the opportunity to see Lionel Messi, Neymar and other superstars fight for the gold. The winner also gets to play in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

When: June 11 – July 4.

U21 European Championship

Description: Eight U21-teams participate in the  Under 21 European Championships. Except for the gold medal, spots in the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil is at stake.

When: 17-30 June.

FIFA Women’s World Cup

Description: The highest ranked women’s tournament is on! We look forward watching some high quality football as Germany, USA and Brazil and the other participating teams are fighting for the gold in Canada.

When: June 6 – July 5.

UEFA 2016 qualifiers

Description: The European teams are fighting for spots in the 2016 European Championships in France.

Date: 12-14 June.
More info: UEFA.

With all this football action, it doesn’t matter if the weather this summer is so-so. Let it rain and stay inside and watch some great football action!

2015 U21 European Championships schedule

52 teams tried to qualify for the 2015 Under 21 European Championships in Czech Republic. 8 managed to grab a spot in the tournament. The format of the tournament is pretty straight forward: Two groups of four teams are competing for spots in the play offs. The best two teams of each group will go through to the semifinals. Also, these will grab a spot in the Olympic Games in Brazil 2016. However, if England reaches semifinal, a separate qualifying game will be played between the third placed teams since England is not an olympic nation (they participate as Great Britain).

Schedule:

Group A:

Czech Republic
Denmark
Germany
Serbia

Group B:

England
Italy
Portugal
Sweden

Matches:

June 17:

Czech Republic – Denmark
Germany – Serbia

June 18:

Italy – Sweden
England – Portugal

June 20:

Serbia – Czech Republic
Germany – Denmark

June 21:

Sweden – England
Italy – Portugal

June 23:

Czech Republic – Germany
Denmark – Serbia

June 24:

England – Italy
Portugal – Sweden

Play offs:

The semifinals are played June 27.
An eventual olympic qualifier is played June 28.
The final is played June 30.