Champions of Europe | Ostersund #13 | An FM18 Story

I think it is clear from the title of this blog post that Ostersund have continued their incredible rise in European football. Twelve years ago, back in 2017, Oscar Friberg replaced the legendary Graham Potter and has since led the Swedish club to the very top of Swedish football. But it has been their prominence in Europe that will define Friberg’s legacy at the club.

In this post I will review the 2029 season just gone, Friberg’s 13th season in charge of Ostersund. We’ll look first at Ostersund’s season domestically before reviewing in detail the 2028/29 edition of the Champions League. This could well be an emotional post! Let’s get into it.

The Greatest Ever Swedish Side | Friberg’s Ostersund 2029

Swedish Cup

Let’s begin with the season opener – the Swedish Cup. Ostersund have a scratchy record in this competition compared to their league success. In 12 campaigns under Friberg so far, Ostersund have reached 7 finals but won just 3 of them.

swedish cup final v hammarby

Swedish Cup Final 2029

They’ve made amends in this years competition and have started their season with a Swedish Cup win, their fifth under Friberg. A convincing 3-1 win against Hammarby secured the cup for Ostersund.

Swedish Allsvenskan

The top tier of Sweden has certainly become a one-horse race over the last few seasons and Ostersund have once again won that race in 2029.

allsvenskan league table 2029

Swedish Allsvenskan 2029

Though the league was a closer run race than normal, Ostersund still cantered home to win their 6th consecutive league title! Friberg used the league to give more experience to his younger players and this showed in some of the performances, but it shows how good of a youth system Ostersund have developed that they can still win the league so comfortably.

an impressive rise

An impressive rise

A brief history of Ostersunds FK

Ostersund were formed in 1996 as a result of a merger between several Ostersund clubs. The newly formed side remained in tier 3 of Swedish football until the 2010 season where they were relegated down to tier 4.

Ostersund’s progress began under Graham Potter, an English manager who really rejuvenated a club on the decline. He joined Ostersund in December 2010 after they were relegated to the fourth tier of Swedish football.

Two consecutive promotions in two years saw Ostersund reach the second tier (Superettan) for the first time in their history. They continued their progress as they finished 10th and 5th in their first two years. In their third year in Superettan, they finished second and earned promotion to the Allsvenskan, the top tier of Swedish football.

In 2016, Ostersund finished 10th in the league, a satisfactory first season for the club, but 2017 would be the season of change for the relatively unknown Swedish outfit. In early 2017, Ostersund won the 2016/17 edition of the Swedish Cup which qualified them for the Europa League to begin later that year.

In June 2017, club legend Graham Potter resigned from his duty, stating that he wished to further his career back home in England. Oscar Friberg was appointed club manager and the rest, they say, is history…

The Champions League | 2028/29

The Groups | Champions League

In the last post we saw how Ostersund had progressed quite comfortably through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League. In a group consisting of Atletico Madrid, Ajax and Krasnodar, Ostersund were expected to progress and that they did, topping the group with 15 points from a possible 18.

cl group table

CL group stage

A dominant start to the 28/29 Champions League saw Ostersund qualify for the knockouts in style – 19 goals scored and just 4 conceded (3 in a final game loss to Atletico). We were drawn to play against Inter Milan in the 1st knockout round to be played next season.

Ostersund vs Inter Milan | Champions League 1st Knockout Round

1st Leg – Away

Ostersund arrived in Milan as underdogs, and this tag suited them down to the ground. The Swedish champions would never be expected to go any further than the 1st knockout round purely because of the country they play in – a Swedish club could never be a real force in Europe, could it?

This certainly seemed true at the halfway stage of the first match. Andrea Pinamonti headed Inter’s first goal before young Serbian newgen Jovica Tomovic added a second. Trailing 2-0 at half-time against Inter Milan could have signalled the premature end of Ostersund’s Champions League adventure.

inter 1st leg soderstrom winnerYet we fought back valiantly. Mehmet Guder scored our first in the 51st minute, an acute finish after a well-worked piece of play. Record signing Markus Eckmann scored our equaliser just three minutes later and Joakim Soderstrom netted the winner.

An impressive 3-2 away win perhaps secured our passage through to the Quarter-Final, despite having a leg still to play. Inter would have gone into half-time complacent and believing the game was won – we proved them wrong.

2nd Leg – Home

With a slender 1-goal advantage, Ostersund hosted Inter Milan at the Jamtkraft Arena knowing that avoiding defeat would guarantee progression through to the next round. We twice took the lead in an even game. Inter Milan fought back twice, however, and it was a nervy final twenty with the score at 2-2 knowing that another goal for Inter would give them the advantage heading into extra time.

Ostersund survived few scares to safely reach the QF, avenging their defeat against Inter at the same stage four seasons prior.

cl last 16 vs inter milan

Ostersund beat Inter Milan | CL last-16

Ostersund vs CSKA Moscow | Champions League Quarter-Final

1st Leg – Home

With teams such as Real Madrid, PSG, Manchester United and Liverpool all still in the competition, Ostersund drew perhaps the easiest tie possible: CSKA Moscow. Nonetheless, any side to have reached the QF stage would be there on merit as we discovered last year after losing to West Ham in the Quarter-Final.

The first leg was to be played at home in Sweden. CSKA lined up with several familiar names including Alban Lafont, Sander Berge, Samuel Umtiti and Nathan Ake, as well as ex-Ostersund star Goran Kozar. The Russians got off to the perfect start, scoring an early away goal through Macedonian Enis Bardhi.

Spaniard Dario Fernandez equalised for Ostersund in the 65th minute but the Swedish side could not force a winner and the game finished 1-1. Not ideal for the home leg and we would be heading to Russia with CSKA as favourites to progress.

2nd Leg – Away

cska 2nd leg guder winner.gifOne of the main talking points prior to the second leg was who would be Ostersund’s starting left winger. Japanese winger and club captain Ken Sasaki started the 1st leg and whilst by no means being poor, he didn’t stand out. Manager Oscar Friberg had the choice between Sasaki and young wonderkid Alexander Nyman, a pacier player with less experience.

Friberg plucked for Nyman and the decision was vindicated resoundingly. Nyman scored the opener, a crucial away goal, before setting up striker Mehmet Guder for Ostersund’s second. This proved enough for Ostersund as they won the game 2-0 and progressed through to the Champions League semi-final.

cl qf vs cska moscow

Ostersund beat CSKA Moscow | CL Quarter-Final

Ostersund vs Benfica | Champions League Semi-Final

1st Leg – Home

Ostersund avoided both Liverpool and PSG to be drawn against Portuguese giants Benfica – arguably the best draw we could have had. We were drawn to play at home first once again and the 1st leg came around very quickly.

Benfica, fielding players including Axel Werner, Pedro Rodrigues, Carel Eiting and Calvin Stengs, would have been confident of scoring at Ostersund – the Swedish side had conceded in both home legs of the knockout stage so far. But we kept out Benfica and scored two goals ourself, winning the match 2-0. Dario Fernandez scored two goals either side of half-time that gave Ostersund an impressive advantage.

2nd Leg – Away

benfica 2nd leg fernandez equaliserAs Joakim Soderstrom scored an away goal in the 27th minute, putting us 3 goals ahead, the tie was looking to be set. But Benfica fought back and fought back strongly. They scored three goals, their third being in the 77th minute, meaning that although we were still going through on away goals, a goal for Benfica would see them progress through to the final.

Benfica and Ostersund both had chances in the final ten minutes. Dario Fernandez, one of our best players over the last few years, was the man to seal the game as he scored twice to ensure Ostersund drew the game 3-3 and won the tie 5-3 over two legs.

cl sf vs benfica

Ostersund beat Benfica | CL Semi-Final

In the other semi-final, Liverpool won the first leg away from home against French superpower Paris Saint-Germain. Despite PSG winning the second leg, Liverpool progressed through 3-2 on aggregate. Liverpool would be the side to face Ostersund in the Champions League final!

Ostersund vs Liverpool | Champions League Final

So, in our thirteenth season with Ostersund, it all comes down to this. The biggest match in Ostersund’s history and indeed my own Football Manager career. Never have I ever developed a smaller side to reach the pinnacle of European football – the Champions League final. Not only would my players be nervous, their manager would be too.

Pre-Match

ostersund cl final line up

Ostersund line-up | 2029 CL Final

Using their accustomed and eccentric formation, Ostersund would set up in an attacking manner, unafraid of their opponents. The change from playing with a standard mentality to an attacking one seems to have paid dividends in Europe, we are confident of outscoring any opponent on our day.

Ken Sasaki got the nod over Alexander Nyman. Our club captain should be on the pitch in the biggest match in the clubs history. Other team news included the inclusion of star player Alexis Villalva, who just days before the final came to speak to Friberg to complain of a lack of silverware with Ostersund. I think we’ll be purchasing a calendar for the young Mexican in the near future.

We are also playing inexperienced left-back Tiago Magalhaes instead of regular Eric Welin who is out injured. Otherwise our side is as strong as it could possibly be.

liverpool cl final line up

Liverpool line-up | 2029 CL Final

Just the four real-world players line-up for this 2029 version of Liverpool. Club legend Trent Alexander-Arnold takes the armband, Matthijs de Ligt and Guiseppe Pezzella start in defence whilst Gabriel Jesus starts up top. Liverpool are the current English Premier League holders, so we cannot and of course will not be taking them lightly. They are a very strong side indeed.

Supported from around the world

Ostersund have really garnered the support of hundreds of fans all over the world – everyone seems to love an underdog! Messages of support flooded in from fans worldwide.

message from aztecamessage from la plata

With this countless support behind them, would Ostersund struggle to deliver in the most pressurised match of their club’s history? Or would this support see them astound the footballing world to become the first Swedish side to lift the Champions League?

Listen to that famous music from the Champions League as you read about the biggest game in Ostersund’s history

First-Half

The first-half played out as you might expect a Champions League final to be played out. Both sides were cautious in being overly attacking and few clear-cut chances were created.

Liverpool had the better of the first half as they created a couple of clear-cut openings on Ostersund’s goal. Brazilian keeper Cacapa was solid at the back to deny world-class striker Titi. At the other end, Mehmet Guder was denied the opener after latching onto an excellent first-time pass from Joakim Soderstrom.

Second-Half

Ostersund came out in the second-half as a reinvigorated side. We dominated the half and created far more chances than we did in the first. The breakthrough came in the 61st minute as Fernandez and Soderstrom combined to open the scoring for Ostersund. Friberg made the change of bringing on Fernandez as a direct replacement for Guder and this took immediate effect.

Ostersund continued to press forward looking for the game-deciding goal and it came in the closing moments of the game. Dario Fernandez was brought down in the area and he converted the resulting penalty. Liverpool struggled to make any impact in the second half as a solid performance from Dmitrovic and Westerlund shut out their strikeforce.

Ostersund are champions of Europe.

cl the final vs liverpool

Post-Match – CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE

On the blowing of the final whistle, #SwedishLegends and #OscarFriberg were hashtags that were trending worldwide, highlighting the incredible feat of both Ostersund the club and Friberg the manager.

Messages of congratulations were sent Ostersund’s way through various forums.

winners suppoprt message 3winners suppoprt message 4winners suppoprt message 5winners support message 1winners support message 2winners support message 6winners support message 7

Many fans rejoiced in the outstanding achievement of a relatively unknown club in world football. Who would have thought that a Swedish club could have won the Champions League, a competition dominated by English teams over the past decade. And to do it against the English champions too!

Several players spoke to the media after the game.

Club captain and Ostersund record appearance-maker, Ken Sasaki. “Winning the Champions League was always in our minds. We want to be remembered as legends of European football, not just Swedish football, and to achieve this we knew that success in Europe was vital. To do it in this manner is special. I thought that Liverpool played well in the first-half and perhaps edged it, but they way we played in the second half was outstanding. No team in world football could have stopped us lifting that trophy tonight. I am proud of my friends, thankful to our manager Oscar and so pleased for the fans of this wonderful club. Long may our success be remembered.”


Manuel Tesfagiorghis O’Michael, out injured for the final. “To watch my friends out on the pitch today was a proud proud moment for me. I’m obviusly gutted not to have been out there with them, but our journey to the final was made together. We have worked so hard to get to this point but our hard work does not stop now. We will enjoy this moment and use it to inspire us to further success in the future. I am more determined now more than ever to be on the pitch the next time we reach the Champions League final.”


Ostersund’s legendary manager, Oscar Friberg. “13 seasons have now past since I joined this incredible club. To see us reach this point is without doubt the highlight of my footballing career. I must first give thanks to Graham Potter, who without his input in the early years of Ostersund’s progression, we would not be here today. I also want to thank our fans who have been here following us from day one, I have never felt anything other than full support from our fans so thank you for that. I think it goes without saying that our squad can now be seen as the best in Europe and this is down to the players. Let’s enjoy this moment and savour our success.”

Ostersund have written themselves into the history books with their treble-winning season. A Swedish side winning the Champions League will remain one of the most incredible feats of the 21st century and Oscar Friberg has led them outstandingly well to achieve this.


Epilogue

Oscar sat down in his Volkswagen Sport Coupe, generously provided to him by club sponsor Volkswagen, and closed the door. He’d decided not to fly back to Sweden with his team, instead choosing to drive back alone. In thirteen years with Ostersund he had achieved so much and tonight was the pinnacle of his years of work.

A Champions League triumph was beyond thought for Friberg when joining his first managerial role and now that he has achieved what was previously deemed impossible, what could possibly trump it?

Friberg stopped several times throughout the journey and each time it felt harder to get back into the car to continue the journey north. The constant question of ‘what next?’ was at the forefront of Friberg’s mind with no answer being provided. In the day ahead Friberg would have to refocus his mind on defending the Swedish Allsvenskan title before the CL process began again with the Group Stage. Ostersund would also have the European Super Cup and Club World Championships to play this season, meaning there would be no real break from football until Christmas.

Oscar would never leave Ostersund mid-season, but the thought of moving on, a thought that had never been there before, was becoming stronger in his mind.

Fast-forward six months and Ostersund have retained their Allsvenskan title, their sixth in a row, and are flying out to Tunisia to play in the Club World Championships. A two-game tournament for European teams that usually means more to the non-European teams – but not on this occasion. Both Ostersund and Friberg were desperate to win it.

Ostersund as a club wanted to experience the feeling of success again. Friberg as a manager wanted to go out on a high. For these two matches would be Oscar’s last in charge of Ostersund. This was decided on that long journey back to Ostersund after the Champions League final when Oscar knew that he couldn’t take his side any further; he had achieved all that he set out to achieve with his beloved club.

After beating Jiangsu 3-0 in the semi-final of the tournament, Friberg took the time to speak to his players and let them know his plans on leaving the club. Later that evening, Friberg held a press conference to tell the media. It’s fair to say that there was an outpouring of sadness throughout Swedish football. Even Malmo and Norrkoping fans could not bring themselves to be happy – Friberg’s Ostersund had brought success never before seen to Swedish shores, leading many to view Sweden as one of the best European leagues.

The final of the CWC was emotional to say the least and the Ostersund players were even more desperate to win in order to give their manager the best possible send off.

And to his delight, Friberg saw his side run out easy victors against Mexican side Pachuca.

cwc win

friberg stats

Oscar Friberg managerial statistics

Friberg leaves Ostersund having led them in 584 matches, winning 68% of those. He helped his side to 7 domestic titles and 6 cups and has certainly put Ostersund on the map of world football. A Swedish legend indeed.


The Entire Series

#0 An Introduction

#1 A Fun First Season

#2.1 Season Two Review, #2.2 The Squad, #2.3 Our Tactic: The Dutch 4-3-3, #2.4 Youth Training And Development

#3 Out With The Old

#4.1 Swedish Cup Final, #4.2 94th Minute Drama, #4.3 Europa League Adventure

#5 Success In Season Five

#6.1 Can We Defend Our Title?, #6.2 Sweden In The 2022 World Cup

#7.1 Season Seven Review, #7.2 Building A Squad In Football Manager

#8 Our Best Season Yet

#9.1 Quest For Domestic Dominance, #9.2 The Ostersund Youth Academy

#10.1 Unbeaten in 51, #10.2 Ten Seasons Gone

#11 The Invincibles

#12.1 European Progression, #12.2 Developing Your Football Manager Wonderkid, #12.3 The Evolution Of Tactics Over A 12-Year Period


If you enjoyed this post and series, do leave a like or a comment to let me know what you thought of the series. I really do appreciate every single one of you who has followed along with this series.

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