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Meet the Sweden team standing in the way of England’s women and a place at the Euro 2022 final

Sweden is the team standing in the way of England and their first major final since 2009.

The Lionesses have fallen to the semifinals of the last three tournaments, with defeat to the United States at the 2019 World Cup, the Netherlands at the 2017 European Championship and Japan at the 2015 World Cup.

With home advantage at their side, England will be a slight favorite going into Tuesday night’s game. But the Swedes are the highest-ranked team in the league and will provide Sarina Wiegman’s side with their toughest test yet.

Sweden is the team standing in the way of England and their first major final since 2009

Sweden is the team standing in the way of England and their first major final since 2009

With home advantage on their side, England will be light favorites on Tuesday night

With home advantage on their side, England will be light favorites on Tuesday night

Sweden finished third at the 2019 World Cup and second at the Tokyo Olympics last year, so it will be desperate to take it one step further this summer.

While they may not have a distinctive name, the Swedes are arguably the most complete team in the league. They are organized, physical and efficient in their attacking play.

There are also many familiar faces in the Swedish squad, with seven players currently in the Women’s Super League. Chelsea defender and captain Magdalena Eriksson is their leader and rock in the back.

Eriksson’s partner Pernille Harder, the Denmark-Chelsea forward, may be in the stands to show moral support. Harder’s Denmark narrowly missed a place in the knockouts, with a 1-0 loss to Spain in their final group match.

Magdalena Eriksson and Pernille Harder shared a kiss after Sweden beat Canada at the 2019 World Cup in France

Magdalena Eriksson and Pernille Harder shared a kiss after Sweden beat Canada at the 2019 World Cup in France

The pair have since become icons on and off the pitch

The pair have since become icons on and off the pitch

Hailed as one of football’s ‘power couples’, Harder and Eriksson have been dating since 2014 and have established themselves as icons on and off the pitch.

The couple’s kiss on the pitch during the 2019 World Cup in France – which went viral on social media – immediately became a hugely symbolic moment for the sport and the LGBT community.

‘Neither I nor Pernille had a goal to become gay role models’ Eriksson told Forbes in an interview in 2020.

“We were just really open from the start when we started seeing each other. From that moment on we both had successful careers, we both became role models and household names. It just happened.

“It’s been important for us not to hide anything and just be ourselves. Show people, that’s how it should be. That’s how we want the world to be. We want people to be able to be themselves and that’s how we want to be.’

“I didn’t know there was a photographer there, so I didn’t even know about the photo,” Harder said later. “It was just a quick kiss after a game, like we’d done other times after other games.

Harder and Eriksson have been in a relationship since 2014 and continue to trail for the sport's jobs

Harder and Eriksson have been in a relationship since 2014 and continue to trail for the sport’s jobs

“This time there was a camera and one thing led to another, the photo appeared on social media and there were many reactions, most of them very positive.

“It made us realize that we are role models, not only in football, but in other ways as well. It is something that we have accepted because we know that we are lucky to feel safe and relaxed in a relationship that is well known.

“If we can help other people to be themselves, we want to do the same.” In the latest example of the couple embracing their profile, they released a short film in March titled “Love Always Wins.”

Eriksson’s Swedish teammate Kosovare Asllani also feels like a role model, but for very different reasons as one of the few Albanian footballers at the highest level of the women’s game.

She is the daughter of Kosovar migrants who immigrated to Sweden, and Asllani has gone to great lengths to ensure that she remembers her family roots.

Her first name – literally ‘girl from Kosovo’ – is an example of this while she has a tattoo of the double-headed black eagle of Albania on her ankle. It has helped her to become the banner of the immigrant communities in Sweden.

Kosovar Asllani is the daughter of Kosovar migrants who immigrated to Sweden

Kosovar Asllani is the daughter of Kosovar migrants who immigrated to Sweden

“I definitely feel like a role model,” she said Morning star online in 2017. ‘I get a lot of messages. My parents tell me that young people really look up to me because I am one of the few Albanian football players in the women’s game who has reached the highest level.

‘I was born in Sweden, but at the same time I am very proud of my heritage, that my parents were born and raised in Kosovo, I am both Albanian and Swedish.

‘I grew up with a family that showed me how people in Kosovo listen to Albanian music. I love it. We’re not a bad country.’

Meanwhile, fellow forward and Arsenal striker Stina Blackstenius leads the Swedish frontline.

Blackstenius started playing football with her older brother Oscar on a team her father Magnus led, and it wasn’t until she turned 15 that she decided that football was the career she wanted to pursue.

Her first name - literally 'girl from Kosovo' - is an example of how she does not want to forget her roots

Her first name – literally ‘girl from Kosovo’ – is an example of how she does not want to forget her roots

Blackstenius is a smooth and skilled striker with an eye for goal, although she has had a number of strikes that were ruled out for marginal offside.

There are also threats from the midfield. Manchester City’s Filippa Angeldahl was twice on the scoresheet against Portugal, while Everton’s Hanna Bennison scored a stunning strike in the win over Switzerland. Bennison helped change the game in Sweden’s narrow win over Belgium and could be a potential match winner.

Swedish manager Peter Gerhardsson is the man who brings it all together after a diverse career in the game.

After scoring 70 goals during his professional career, his coaching journey began as a gym teacher at a high school football school

He was then recruited to coach the Swedish national team at various youth levels, before the opportunities presented themselves to become an assistant coach in both the men’s and women’s games.

He eventually became the head coach of BK Hacken in Sweden’s top flight competition, before taking on the role of women’s national team coach in 2017, which led them to third place in the World Cup three years ago.

Meanwhile, fellow striker and Arsenal striker Stina Blackstenius leads the Swedish frontline

Meanwhile, fellow striker and Arsenal striker Stina Blackstenius leads the Swedish frontline

Now he believes his team’s experience with the WSL will help them beat the Lionesses on Tuesday night.

“I think we are physically very difficult to beat,” Gerhardsson said after his team’s quarter-final victory over Belgium.

“We also have some players in our squad who play at club level in England, so they know what it’s about. That experience will be very important.

“They know what they are going to meet because they regularly play them in the league. That experience will be very important to me.’

Barcelona forward Fridonlina Rolfo, who can also play as an attacking left-back, is another threat England should be wary of and could target England’s right flank if Lucy Bronze is pulled out of position.

But Bronze, who will join Barcelona next season with Rolfo, is well aware of the attacker’s strengths.

Swedish manager Peter Gerhardsson started his coaching career as a high school gym teacher

Swedish manager Peter Gerhardsson started his coaching career as a high school gym teacher

“I think she has scored and assisted on more than 15 goals or assists all season,” said Bronze.

“I know my stats and I know a lot about her, probably more than some of the people watching the tournament. [She’s] a player who can play left back and play left will pose a threat both on offense and defense which are not always the best wingers to play against if they know how to defend well.

“He’s a player I’ve played against many times. Back in the day, when we were both Lyon and Wolfsburg, we had a little fight on the side a few times. I’m excited to play against her and also play with her in a few weeks.’

Barcelona striker Fridonlina Rolfo, who can also play as an attacking left-back, poses another threat

Barcelona striker Fridonlina Rolfo, who can also play as an attacking left-back, poses another threat

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