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Sweden’s path to the semi-finals is rigged

So, it’s “now or never” for Sweden at the World Cup

Published on 2023-12-01 13.48

Gutenberg. The draw gives Sweden ‘now or never’ feelings.

Or “tie” maybe it should be.

Because this is nothing more than a difficult path to getting medals for Sweden.

“Draw,” I write in quotes.

Didn’t things go well when the World Cup draw was held on July 6 in Scandinavia?

Were some of the balls in the glass bowls hotter than others?

Did the magical children who drew lots on stage exchange notes with each other without anyone seeing?

No, I was there myself and didn’t see anything wrong. It’s possible that everything went well during the draw itself.

The bumpy road ahead for Sweden (and to some extent also the other two host countries, Denmark and Norway) had been paved long before that.

Because there is perhaps no other sport where World Cup host countries and the European Commission can obtain such great advantages as in handball.

In the past, the World Cup host nation had to choose which group it wanted to be placed in when the rest of the draw was completed. It has become more difficult in recent years as the World Cup is usually held in several countries.

Perhaps you remember how things crept up five days after the draw for the last Women’s World Cup, with hosts Spain swapping places in their quarter-final ties, so it was a tough half with the top six teams from the Olympics just decided and Spain in the easy other half?

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Over the years, we have also seen how regulated countries have cheated and adjusted the schedule so that they get extra rest days or fewer flights than their competitors.

In other words, FIFA gave the tournament organizers enormous freedoms. You have the final say but you seem to allow most things.

Aksner chose Montenegro before the draw was made

Ahead of this year’s World Cup, the organizing trio chose to place themselves and five other teams in each group three days before the draw was made.

This has also been done before, but then you can often see commercial reasons behind the location of certain teams in certain cities, like the Danish guys playing in Malmö when Sweden organized the tournaments.

The motives behind placing these eight teams in this way before the World Cup were not revealed.

But when I asked Swedish World Cup general Christer Bergstrom, he said without further ado that there were sporting reasons behind it, with commercial reasons coming in second place this time. The host countries simply tried to give themselves as easy a route to the semi-finals as possible.

They were allowed to place a team of their choice in the group they would be paired with in the intermediate round. Bergstrom let Thomas Aksner decide on Sweden and then chose the national team captain Montenegro.


The small Balkan country is perhaps the worst team in the top seed, so Sweden is in no danger of facing another top seed in the intermediate round.

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Norway faced France somewhat surprisingly, meaning they will meet the French in the intermediate round but are not in danger of facing them in the quarter-finals or semi-finals. Denmark chose Germany for its group in the intermediate round.

The three organizers then spoke together and also placed the Netherlands and Spain in each group.

When the number of major countries becomes smaller (Russia was banned for almost two years) but the number of World Cup participants increases, of course it becomes easier for the advanced candidates to manipulate the groups and the schedule so that they avoid eliminating each other before the final. semi final.

This time it “happened” that if Sweden, Norway and Denmark played their cards right and won each intermediate round, there would be no danger of meeting each other or France in the quarter-finals.

Here, Sweden is arguably the biggest winner as they are the weakest team out of the four teams – on paper anyway.

– Frankly, he was offered to the Swedish national team, says Bergström.

Excellent combination in the team

To this bumpy road to the medal matches, we will add…

…that Sweden has its own home in the World Cup for the first time, until the quarter-finals.

…Axner considers himself the strongest team to date (on paper, anyway). For the first time, he had all the current players available when he formed his team. In their previous tournaments, for example, Olivia Millegaard, Matilda Lundström or Johanna Bundsen were absent for various reasons.

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…Axner is achieving his fourth championship as captain of the national team, and he left his mark on this team just over three years ago. Given that the biggest goal has always been to hold the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, the team building should basically be in place by now.

…An excellent combination in the team. The older guard – not to mention the core of Roberts, Bloom, Hageman, Bundsen and Lagerquist – should be at their peak now, and hopefully that will continue for another six months, while the generation that follows them is three to five championships behind them. These two generations have future names like Tyra Axnér and Nina Koppang in their niche roles.

All in all, but above all, the road to the semi-finals, makes me want to declare that it’s now or (maybe) never for the women in the WC, as they’ve never won a medal.

I write ‘maybe’ as one naturally hopes that this will be the tournament where Sweden progresses and becomes a firm medal candidate in the future, just in time for the Olympics.