After 10 years as the Sweden manager Janne Andersson resigned when Sweden got knocked out of the 2026 World Cup 2nd round against Germany on penalties. I applied for the job and got it, becoming Sweden manager in a bright time for the Swedish national team.
When I took over management, Sweden were ranked 8th in the World which would have been unthinkable only a few years earlier when Sweden was consistently ranked around 40th place. We have somewhat of a golden generation by Swedish standards, with the players that came second in the U19 European Championship in 2020 and third in the 2021 U20 World Cup now reaching their prime.
The brightest star by far is now 27 year old striker Alexander Isak, playing for Stoke since 2023. There are also quite a few exciting youngsters coming through, primarily from our Academy, like midfield wonderkid Erik Peterson.
When I took the job, Brazilian BP star Magrão was a year short of spending five consecutive years in Sweden, which meant that he would be eligible for the national team soon since he hadn’t represented Brazil yet.
He had been rumoured for a spot in a couple of Brazil squads but he hadn’t been picked yet. I crossed my fingers but realized that it was probably a pipe dream seeing him in the Sweden kit in the future. However, when 2026 became 2027 Magrão still was uncapped and I started counting down the days. 90. 70. 50. 35. 20. 14. 7. 0! He was finally a Swedish citizen, but when I tried to approach him I got the message that he was waiting on paper work to be done.
I had to wait for another month until said paperwork had been done, just to be straight off rejected when I tried to approach him. He told me he wasn’t interested in representing Sweden at the moment, since he was still hoping for a chance to play for Brazil. However, he left me the option to try to convince him. I gave it my very best, promising him gold, glory and my first-born child. He recognized my attempt and told me he’d get back to me in a couple of days. Oh, the suspense…
When he came back with an answer I was in equal parts delighted and surprised. I had convinced him to represent Sweden, which meant that we had just made an excellent player eligible in our probably weakest spot ML.
We found ourselves in quite a tough group on paper with Portugal, ranked 4th in the world, as the main competition for the number one spot. However, we really impressed in the group, beating Portugal in both games and winning against Andorra with a staggering record breaking 17-0(!) away win.
We finished first in the group, which meant that we qualified for the European Championship in Spain in 2028. During the group stage we climbed the world ranking to an unprecedented 3rd place! We are actually becoming slight favourites for the European Championship!
I decided to go down the familiar route by using the same tactic as I use with BP. A 4-4-2 setup with a fast-paced attack and a furiously aggressive hard-pressing defense. With the back four we try to stay back with the central defenders and attack with our wing backs whenever we can.
In midfield we use an inverted winger on the left who likes to get the ball at his feet and cut inside creating chances for himself or others. On the right side we use a classic winger who tries to beat his man and get in some crosses.
In central midfield we have quite the offensive setup with an attacking playmaker alongside a central midfielder. This usually means that they end up pretty high up in the field which really isn’t a problem for us, since we want to close down aggressively all over the pitch.
Up front we use a central forward who is encouraged to drop into the hole between the opposition’s defense and midfield and also stray away from position to receive the ball. Beside him we use an attacking forward to always have a player in the box, striking like a cobra when he gets the chance.
Deciding on what players to pick was even harder than I had expected, even though I had a pretty good idea of what players I wanted to use after the qualification games. The top players were easy to pick, but the back-up players were much harder. In Sweden, the top players are quite few and easy to single out, while there are quite a lot of players who are of decent but not top quality. I finally decided to plan a bit for the 2030 World Cup when I chose the fringe players. I picked one or two really young players in each position, primarily to give them some much needed tournament experience, which I believe will come in handy in the future.
When playing in an international tournament like the World Cup or European Championship the schedule is pretty tight, which means that players get tired or even injured. Therefore I really like to have players that can play multiple positions to cover for injured team mates.
We start off with both easy and tough choices when it comes to the goalkeeper position. The easy part was picking which three keepers to include in the squad. The three above are the best, or least bad, in Sweden at the moment, which makes this probably our weakest position. Picking our first choice was a bit harder though, as I felt that the three keepers were fairly even matched when it comes to quality. I finally decided on Alex Holmén as he is likely to improve a bit in the future and might very well be our best keeper by a margin when the 2030 World Cup comes around
We have a pretty strong starting back four with Augustinsson-Wahlberg-Axelsson-Berglund from left to right. Behind them it looks ok, with decent coverage in every position and a couple of players that can play in multiple positions.
Veteran left back Ludwig Augustinsson is the oldest player in the squad, but he is still our best left back. He won’t be in the 2030 World Cup team, but he can hopefully shine in this last international tournament for us.
We bring two uncapped players with us who have both really impressed during the last couple of months. Mohammed Ali has played regularly for us in Allsvenskan despite his young age and Gustav Enersen has played 34 games in the Championship for Fulham away on loan from Newcastle. They are both basically in the squad on “watch and learn” premises.
Our own 20 year old left back Per Lindh together with central defender Magnus Engström from Verona fell victims in the final squad cut, primarily because of injury issues.
In midfield we find Sweden’s biggest star in 19 year old Erik Petersson, who recently completed an €80M move from BP to Real Madrid. He will start in the more defensive central midfield role with Johansson beside him as the attacking playmaker. Magrão is the natural choice for the left wing with Jönsson running up and down the right wing.
Behind them we have a couple of decent back-up choices and what’s more important, most of our players are able to play in different positions.
Here we find another player making his debut in BP owned Markus Olsson who has impressed away on loan at Scottish Premiership club Dundee.
Here we have a really clear cut line between starters and back-up players. If fit, Colley and Isak are my first choices. My first choice to replace them is probably Ludvig Johansson listed above as a midfielder. Both Asoro and Lorshag are therefore meant to be pure squad players, filling different roles.
I really thought long and hard whether to cut Lorshag, Asoro or both from the squad. Lorshag is a decent player that is very familiar with the way we play, but the fact is that he doesn’t bring anything new to the table. He is 29 years old and basically just a slightly worse version of Isak and Colley.
Asoro on the other hand is lightning fast and can surely come in late in a game to punish a slow and tired opposition back four. However, he is nowhere near complete enough to be a serious contender for a starting spot. After cutting some midfield dead weight (sorry guys!) I managed to fit them both in.
All in all I’m fairly satisfied with my squad. We look pretty strong in all positions except for the goalkeepers, but we really lack depth. Our first eleven will probably match some of the best teams in the tournament, but our back-up players are a lot worse than the back-ups of teams such as Germany and Italy.
In a tournament with such a tight schedule I will need to use all players and I’ll try to use them wisely, perhaps resting important players against weaker opposition. In the final squad we have 8 current BP players in Holmén, Wahlberg, Augustinsson, Ali, Olsson, Jönsson, Magrão and Lorshag and another 6 former BP players in Berglund, Johansson, Petersson, Kulusevski, Antonsson and Asoro. In total there are 14 players from the BP Academy, truly outstanding!
Now let’s look at our group and the opposition:
World ranking: 1st
Road to Spain: Italy won their qualifying group E ahead of Switzerland with an impressive 24 out of 24 points and a goal difference of +29.
World ranking: 25th
Road to Spain: Norway finished 2nd in Group J behind Croatia, which was the only team Norway lost any points to. They qualified as the second best second placed team.
The 26 year old Frank Schulze has been a really important player for Bayern during the two seasons since his €91M move from Chelsea. He has been racking up both goals and assist for Bayern as well as Norway in recent years. He scored an impressive ten goals during qualification from his midfield position.
World ranking: 32nd
Road to Spain: Scotland finished second in their Group F behind reigning European champions England and two points ahead of Iceland. They qualified as the seventh best second placed team.
Italy stand out as the strongest opposition with an excellent squad. Norway and Scotland feel pretty evenly matched, and we probably have to beat at least one of them in order to survive the group stage.
We managed a draw and a loss in the two final games ahead of the tournament, but we actually looked much better than what the results make you believe. Against Croatia we had 21 shots against Croatia’s 2. The game against Germany was actually pretty even, but they scored their chances and we didn’t. The feeling is still one of excitement going in to the tournament and a medal is our ultimate goal!
Starting XI: Dahlberg – Augustinsson, Wahlberg, Axelsson, Berglund – Magrão, Johansson, Petersson, Jönsson – Colley, Isak.
We started with the best possible eleven we could, with Dahlberg and Antonsson impressing enough in the pre-tournament friendlies to earn spots in goal and out on the right wing.
The game was initially tight without any real chances until Scotland was awarded a penalty in the 33rd minute. Dahlberg stepped up and thanked for the confidence shown in him by saving the penalty in great fashion. We took over the game after this, scoring important psychological goals both right before and after the half time. Scotland started throwing men forward and scored a goal with 30 minutes left on the clock.
I was really nervous towards the end, but we managed to keep tight for the rest of the match and win the first important group game!
Game 2: vs Norway
Starting XI: Dahlberg – Åkerman, Evensen, Ali, Berglund – Olsson, Ackermann, Petersson, Jönsson – Isak, Lorshag
We rotated heavily against a Norwegian side that had lost their first game against Italy 0-2. Our Scandinavian rivals felt like the weakest team in the group and I wanted to rest as many of our important players as possible with the Italy game in mind. This strategy came awfully close to backfiring as Norway dominated the game and deservedly took the lead after half an hour.
After the goal Norway continued their domination and we struggled to create chances. After 60 minutes we moved a midfielder into a forward position and after another ten minutes we swapped a central defender for an attacking midfielder. Suddenly Sweden was the only team on the pitch and the Norwegian goalkeeper really struggled to keep his sheets clean. In a few moments of genius or perhaps divine intervention we managed to turn the game around with an Alexander Isak brace!
I screamed off the top of my lungs and tried a miserable back-flip that nearly sent me to the hospital, but I didn’t care! We had turned the game around in an awesome fashion and we were 100% certain to go through to the knockout stage with one game left to play. Truly sensational!
Game 3: vs Italy
Starting XI: Dahlberg – Augustinsson, Wahlberg, Axelsson, Berglund – Magrão, Johansson, Petersson, Jönsson – Colley, Isak.
With both teams unbeaten going in to the third and final game we put our strongest starting eleven on the pitch, knowing that a win would secure us a top spot in the group and an easier draw in the first round of the knockout stage.
We looked a lot better than in the Norway game, but we conceded an early goal against the run of play. This time we didn’t panic though as we managed to pull level and ahead with two goals before the half-time whistle. We continued to present a solid defense as Italy started to throw men forward towards the end of the game.
Without any real chances produced we managed to get away with a win against the World no1, which put an end to a truly magnificent group stage performance by us!
Looking at all the groups there were no real upsets in the group stage. All the giants, including reigning European champions England (beating Germany in possibly the toughest group) managed to get through the group stage and into the knockout rounds. As winners of Group A we were to play a 3rd place team, which felt great, as none of them looked too good. We were drawn against the Czech Republic, which felt like a decent tie!
Knockout round 1: vs the Czech Republic
Starting XI: Dahlberg – Åkerman, Evensen, Ali, Berglund – Magrão, Hadzikadunic, Ackermann, Jönsson – Lorshag, Asoro
The Czech Republic felt like one of the weakest sides to go through the group stage, only managing two draws (albeit one of them against Germany) and a loss. Therefore I chose to gamble, by almost completely rotating the squad, resting my best players for a potential quarter final. No guts, no glory!
My plan worked perfectly as the game was pretty much over after just 19 minutes. We came at them in attack after attack, scoring three quick goals. A volley by Magrão and two quick runs in behind the Czech defense and two clinical Asoro finishes later we had one leg in the quarter final. We just controlled the game after that, subbing off important players early with the quarter final in mind.
The first knockout round saw a few upsets as reigning champions England were knocked out by surprise package Slovenia and Denmark managed to beat Belgium 1-0. Therefore we will play Denmark in a Nordic derby for a place in the semi final.
Quarter final: vs Denmark
Starting XI: Dahlberg – Augustinsson, Wahlberg, Axelsson, Berglund – Magrão, Johansson, Petersson, Antonsson – Colley, Isak.
We started the game furiously, with a Colley header hitting the far post in the 7th minute, dancing a bit on the goal line before being cleared to a corner by a Danish defender.
We immediately get our revenge when Wahlberg tap in the ball from close range after a flick-on from Colley on the Magrão corner. We continue to dominate the game and in the 36th minute Isak puts home a volley after a perfect cross from Colley. We look completely in charge and seem to be cruising towards a place in the semi final!
In the 53rd minute only the post stops Magrão from giving us a 3-0 lead and effectively closing the game. Instead Denmark score two minutes later to make the game exciting again.
The excitement only lasts a couple of minutes though as Colley and Isak score for us again with only a few minutes apart. The goal fest continues throughout a game that finally ends with a 6-3 win for us!
Semi final: vs Croatia
Starting XI: Dahlberg – Åkerman, Hadzikadunic, Ali, Berglund – Olsson, Kulusevski, Petersson, Jönsson – Isak, Asoro
Croatia surprised the entire footballing when they knocked out Holland in the quarter final, much to our joy. Croatia was in my opinion by far the easiest semi final opponent. Just like in the Denmark game we started the semi final in the best possible way with an Asoro goal in the fifth minute followed by a goal by Petersson two minutes later.
Croatia came back in the 44th minute making it 2-1 as we headed in for the half-time break. I felt a bit nervous going out for the second half, but Isak settled my nerves with an immediate 3-1 goal giving us a bit of room to breathe.
Croatia didn’t manage to pose a real threat for the remainder of the game, which meant that we were through to the final, where we would face group stage antagonists Italy once again.
Final: vs Italy
We face Italy, who we beat in the group stage, in a really exciting final game! I feel that we have the slight advantage, even though Italy has the best players on paper. We beat them in the group stage and we rested some important players. Italy chose to play their best eleven in the semi final, which has left some of their key players pretty tired before the game has even started. This might become a key factor, especially if the game goes to extra time.
Pietro Pellegri opens the scoring in the 8th minute with Magrão equalizing in the 17th minute. The game is pretty tight for the rest of the first half with no real chances for either team. 2 goals from Italy early on in the second half changes everything and we immediately go all out attack resulting in a Isak goal in the 66th minute.
We keep pushing forward and in the 92nd minute we finally get ourchance to take the game into extra time. However, the Colley header from Lorshag’s cross hits the bar and we lose the game. Absolutely gutting!
Despite the initial feeling of disappointment, with a couple of days distance to the final a silver medal feels really good. We only lost one game in the entire tournament, and that was the final against the best team in the world. I’m really proud of the team and I’m already starting to look forward to the 2030 World Cup!
The next episode
In the next episode we will see how the team does in the 2029 season. Will we win the league again? Will the promotion of the new Academy graduates make BP strong enough to finally compete in Europe? Will we ever start a game with only Academy products on the pitch? Have we produced the “New Ronaldo”? The only way to find out is by reading the next episode!
Thanks for the read, I hope you liked it as much as I did writing it!
- Twitter: @MikaelinhoFM
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