Certainly, the Kardashians aren’t one (thankfully!) but….
It is a widespread acceptance that the Super Falcons are unarguably in the Group of Death in the World Cup slated for June. With 15 days to go and our Falcons just arrived Canadian City of Toronto ahead of schedule, let’s asses the teams our girls will be facing.
The 8th of June in Winnipeg will see the Falcons play their first game at the Winnipeg Stadium against a prolific Swede side. Four days later, they take on the Matildas of Australia, Asia’s reigning runners up. In another four days, the girls face the last and indeed the beast, USA.
So let’s begin to dissect, bisect and probably affect these teams, shall we?
The Need for Swede
If the above subtext had ”speed” fit in, it wouldn’t change much. This brilliant team of guile lynchpins has been one of the powerhouses of women’s football since the sport took its first step. The Damlandslaget has featured in the World Cup since its inception in 1991; an exclusive club of seven teams which includes Nigeria.
They are fourth in the all time FIFA Women’s ranking and have always progressed from the group stage with the exception of the 2007 edition in China where they made a shock exit at the group stage after finishing runners up in the US four years earlier.
However, such a team of pedigree has of course, flattered to deceive. Termed the ”contending pretender”, Sweden are yet to stamp their imprint on the tournament as an outight favorite. Together with Brazil, they have been one of the perennial underachievers and with an aging team of superstars, that trend may not change soon.
Their route to Canada 2015 was relatively straightforward, bagging ten wins in ten as well as conceeding just a solitary goal with 32 scored. In contrast to being the meanest defense in the UEFA Qualification (tied with England and Switzerland), they were also Europe’s least prolific in front of goal.
In another change of tides, the Swedish side has shipped eight goals in their last three friendly games; failing to register wins against Germany (lost 2-1), World Cup debutante – Switzerland (lost 3-1) and astonishingly, world cup absentee, Denmark (drew 3-3).
Pia Sundhage had lamentated her side’s tame creativity and penetration but now, the former USA coach and 2011 WC silver medallist has it all to do with her team’s atrocious displays of late.
She would have to get the best off her squad whose average age is 27 and depend on experienced veterans in all corners of the pitch; Goalkeeper- Hedvig Lindahl, Defender- Nilla Fischer, Midfielders -Therese Sjogren and Caroline Seger as well as Forward -Lotta Schelin (pictured in yellow above) who are 32, 31, 38, 30 and 31 years of age respectively.
Nonetheless, this team has fielded youth with their experienced legs; one of such examples being the blazing forward Sofia Jakobsson (25 years). They play a style reminiscent of the male German team which is basically possession-based football and key to its implementation is Caroline Seger, who’ll be relishing the task of not just the skipper but the central marshal.
Interestingly, Sweden and Nigeria are familiar foes on the world stage. Having faced each other in the same group in the 2003 and 2007 edition of the world cup and Athens 2004 Olympic games, the Falcons are yet to defeat this Scandinavian side. They have drawn once (1-1, China 2007) and lost twice (2-1, Olympic games and 3-0, USA 2003).
Sweden will want to improve on the bronze medal won in 2011 making the game against Nigeria, a potential banana skin in what is a lose-and-risk-elimination group. It’s up to the Falcons to be airtight on the day and take advantage of the shaky defense that’s certain to be under immense pressure to get it right from the blast of the whistle. Instrumental to our cause will be set pieces and disrupting any rhythm conjured by the lethal pair of Fischer and Jakobsson.
As evidenced by their resurgence after going a woman down and winning bronze last time around; against a disciplined France, we will face a relentless Swede team thus, our concentration must be the joker.
They may not have the pace nor the legs, but there will be a hard target.
For them, that may just be enough.
Except we change the narrative.
More To Follow……
Article by Janine Anthony