Sunday 08 July 2018, 08:43

Sweden to return home as unforgettable heroes

  • Sweden reach quarter-final since fabled class of 1994

  • Pride resonates through the squad

  • Captain Granqvist: "I’m extremely proud of this team"

By Alexandra Jonson with Sweden

Every four years there is a FIFA World Cup™ and every four years everyone in Sweden speaks of 1994. But now, after 24 years, the Swedes finally have a new World Cup story to talk about and remember.

When the final whistle went in Samara on Saturday the Swedish players all fell to the ground, beaten and with tears falling down their cheeks. “You feel very disappointed and sad, you don’t want to leave Russia”, Robin Olsen said after the match.

Robin Olsen of Sweden looks dejected 

A little while later Janne Andersson collected his players and the coaching staff in front of the Swedish supporters, to have a talk. With their arms around each other, the players listened as the coach tried to remind them of the incredible feat they had achieved. And little by little it started to sink in.

“I have this enormous pride for this team," Olsen said. "Of what we have done together. From the first match in the qualifiers against the Netherlands, the play-off against Italy and then come to this World Cup and do this. It’s something we will be able to look back at and be extremely proud of."

Back home in Sweden, the nation has been in a grip of complete World Cup fever. The Swedish national team shirts sold out in stores and online, millions watched the matches in front of the TV, bringing the entire country to a stand-still. And even if it’s summer, the typical Christmas tree - spruce trees - have been more popular than ever.

The reason being that Sweden’s captain Andreas Granqvist is nicknamed 'Granen' meaning Spruce in Swedish. A collection was even started by some fans to buy the biggest possible bunch of flowers for Granqvist and his wife as their second child was born the day before the quarterfinal. The collection reached such a high amount, that the family got not only flowers but also spruces sent to them. In addition, a big donation was made to the project 'Allas rätt till en gran' ('Everyone's right to a spruce') which gives Christmas trees to people who cannot afford one themselves.

“I think we have written history in Sweden, with this performance” Emil Forsberg said after the match. Looking at how the country has reacted, there is no doubt that he is right.

“We didn’t have the odds on our side when we came to this World Cup and we made it to the quarter-finals. We have to be proud, but you never want it to end,” said Marcus Berg.

Marcus Berg Ludwig Augustinsson of Sweden looks dejected

Speaking to FIFA after the match, head coach Janne Andersson said: “We have created a team that worked very well, the guys together, the way we've played football. It’s worked against the best in the world several times. This time we played a team that might go all the way, England look very good. But we have a way of playing and the boys' attitude has been incredible.”

While the spruce, Granqvist himself, put it like this: “I’m extremely proud of this team, the coaching staff and everyone who’s been a part of this, how we've all acted this summer," he told FIFA. "We made it to a quarter-final, it's been 24 years since we were last at this stage. So I have an incredible joy and pride for what we archived this summer”

On Sunday, Sweden leave their team base in Gelendzihk, and they leave Russia. But when they arrive in Stockholm, they do so as heroes. Heroes that like those in 1994, will be spoken about for many years to come.