Sweden is focused on just one objective in its next World Cup game: Knock out the U.S. women’s national team in the Round of 16 on Sunday.
The two sides are familiar opponents, having most recently met in the group stage of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Sweden won that game 3-0, and this time, they’re motivated by the opportunity to extend Caroline Seger’s World Cup career. The 38-year-old Swedish captain is playing in her final World Cup this summer.
“We get very, very motivated by that,” defender Nathalie Bjorn told reporters this week. “We haven’t even thought about that kind of outcome. We will have full focus on Sunday. We will do everything we can as a team, as individuals, and then we’ll make sure that we will knock out the U.S.”
Sweden received two very powerful reminders this week as the World Cup careers of Marta and Christine Sinclair prematurely came to an end. Marta’s Brazil and Sinclair’s Canada were both eliminated in the group stage of the tournament.
The Swedes are optimistic about the matchup, having had “some good results” against the USWNT in recent years, according to midfielder Johanna Rytting Kaneryd.
“We are confident and I think we know how to hurt them, but it’s gonna be a challenging game and we have a lot of respect for them. It’s a really, really good team who won the last World Cup,” she said. “They want — a little bit like us — they want to play with a lot of speed and they want to win the ball and go for attacks straightaway. I feel like that’s where we can go for the attack as well.
“We are the best when we win the ball high up the pitch and really hurt them there. So hopefully, if we get that part right from the start, I think we can have a good game.”
The USWNT staved off elimination — and a historic upset — in the group stage, and now they are looking to avoid their worst finish ever in the knockout rounds. While many have criticized the squad in recent days, including former USWNT star Carli Lloyd, coach Vlatko Andonovski and the U.S. players have remained adamant that they have what it takes to win.
For Sweden, upsetting the USWNT on Sunday all boils down to controlling possession.
“When you play football, we want to have the ball, and if the U.S. has the ball too much, they are going to control the game. We don’t want them to control the game,” Bjorn said. “We want to have the ball and create our own chances. We need to be very critical in our press and try to make them force mistakes.”