How Sweden ended a 60-year drought

By On June 19, 2018

How Sweden ended a 60-year drought

  • Sweden’s Class of 2018 marked by mental toughness
  • The team have worked on mental preparation and togetherness
  • Sweden face world champions Germany on Saturday
© Getty Images

By Alexandra Jonson with Sweden

Defeating Korea Republic in their opening match at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ saw Sweden overcoming a 60-year drought. The Scandinavians hadn’t won their first match at a World Cup since 1958, when the tournament was held in their own backyard.

Since then, Sweden have qualified for seven World Cups but failed to gain a win in each of their opening matches, with draws in 1974, 1978, 1994, 2002 and 2006. In 1970 and 1990, they lost their first-up encounters.

Though the current crop o f players are playing in their first ever World Cup, many of them have experienced the opening match hoodoo when playing at the UEFA EURO in 2012 and 2016. That the Swedes could finally put an end to the opening-match curse was the result of hard work, combined with a lot of mental training.

Mental preparation
When Janne Andersson took over as head coach for the Swedish national team in 2016 he brought Daniel Ekvall with him, a sports psychology advisor, who worked with Andersson for several years at his previous club IFK Norrkoping. Ekvall has become an important figure in creating what has become the biggest strength of the Swedish team, the group cohesion.

“We have worked a lot with Daniel Ekvall, and learned what is important for us so that we can be as mentally ready as possible. That’s something we will continue to do and the trust we have in this group among the players and the staff makes me believe we are better prepared than in prev ious tournaments,” said captain Andreas Granqvist the day before Sweden’s opening match against Korea Republic.

On Monday, the results could be seen. After overcoming early nerves, Sweden took control and they never looked back.

The mental strength was evident, even as the chances kept on coming but the ball would not go in. A penalty from Granqvist finally saw Sweden get the goal they had been chasing to win the match.

“This is something we have prepared for: we felt at half-time that we should have been one or two goals up, but we showed enough strength to keep working and not stop,” Sebastian Larsson told FIFA after the match.

“It’s about how you relate to each other and in that process the players are very involved, and they have been since I came here,” Andersson said. “We work on this every time we meet, and we discuss how we want it to be: what is important on the pitch, and in what way we should we behave. It’s not that complicated really.”

Next up for Sweden in the group stage: defending champions Germany. There is no doubt that Janne Andersson’s men are the underdogs. However this is not a new situation for the Swedes, who saw off both Italy and the Netherlands in the qualifying stages to make it to Russia. The key, once again, was the mental strength of the team.

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Source: Google News Sweden | Netizen 24 Sweden

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