Sweden face the reigning champions in their group at the World Cup but Henrik Larsson still fancies his team to progress to the knockout stages...
"Simply qualifying for the World Cup is a major accomplishment for a small country like ours but if I know the staff and the players, they won't settle just for getting to Russia."
Sweden, Germany, Mexico and South Korea make up Group F in the World Cup. While Sweden face some very stiff competition in the form of the reigning champions, their chances of advancing are good. This week, I discuss my past experiences taking part in the tournament as well as the key to advancing.
I remember my first time in a World Cup. I was more of a role player at the time and started from the bench most of the games but I knew my role and I made the most of my opportunity. I remember getting the starting nod against Brazil as a fine moment.
Nerves will play a part next summer as many of the Swedish players are participating in their first World Cup, but for the national team to succeed, they will have to know their roles and know them well. It will be tremendously important that everyone contributes to what is agreed upon and thereby remove any distractions.
Having played in the World Cup myself, I am well aware that there are no easy matches. With that said, things could have turned out worse for Sweden. Germany will step into the tournament as hot favourites to win the group, while Sweden and Mexico will fight for second place. You never know how South Korea will fare but they are not to be taken lightly. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Sweden has a good chance of advancing from the group.
Simply qualifying for the World Cup is a major accomplishment for a small country like ours but if I know the staff and the players, they won't settle just for getting to Russia. Just playing in the group isn't enough and you want to advance as far as possible. I see Sweden's chances of advancing as strong and the key will be a good result in the first group game against South Korea. The players would grow in the tournament having a win, or even a draw, behind them and it would become a major boost going forward. Having played in a number of these big tournaments you start to understand the value of having a solid result early.
If Sweden manages to place second in the group and Brazil win their group, we're looking at a very tough match in the next round. But Sweden have proven to be a fierce opponent against so-called 'better' sides, showing that they can beat big nations. The pressure would all be on the Brazilian team.