Ireland have a tough task on hand when they take on Sweden in their initial World Cup qualifier on Thursday.
The Swedes have a great pedigree, recently finished second in the Tokyo Olympics, but how skilled are they?
Explain takes a look …
The Swedes have two candidates for Ballon D’Or, perhaps in Magdalena Eriksson and Stina Blackstenius, the striker whose goal drove Sweden to the Olympic final.
There is a feeling that Europe’s top teams were underrepresented on the list of 20 women and that Fridolina Rolfo, the striker recently recruited by Champions League winners Barcelona, also deserved a nod.
It underlines the quality that drips through this Swedish squad.
So much so that players like Everton’s talented teenager Hanna Bennison have had to wait for an opportunity with the team that may come tonight.
From Barcelona to Chelsea, Bayern Munich to Paris Saint-Germain, Sweden has players who perform for all the best club teams.
They are still difficult to break down, having only conceded four goals in their six matches at the Olympics in Tokyo.
There are not many, but they may be more clinical – after all, 44 goal chances were created against Georgia and they only took four.
They also beat Slovakia by a single goal in their last qualifier despite a dominant performance. Sometimes not all of their possessions are translated into the scoreboard.
This is not the old ultra-defensive Sweden, what Hope Solo called “cowardly” after the USA beat them in the Olympic final in Rio.
Under Peter Gerhardsson, they have an attacking style that can leave them open on the pitch.
There may be an odd opportunity for Katie McCabe or Denise O’Sullivan to create a chance.
The legendary midfielder Caroline Seger, Europe’s most played player, misses this match but it is difficult to know how much it weakens Sweden as the teenager Bennison, Everton’s record signing, is ready to replace.
Sweden has been one of the pioneers when it comes to women’s football, and the game began to grow in the 1960s.
They played their first international match in 1973, a goalless draw against Finland, and it was the same year that their first national championship was played.
The Swedish reputation as one of the game’s power packages is underlined by the fact that they have competed in 25 major tournaments – eight World Cups, 10 euros and seven Olympics.
They won their first major title by becoming European champions in 1984 before finishing third in the 1987 World Cup.
A golden generation emerged at the turn of the millennium but ended up losing the 2003 World Cup final to Germany.
This current Swedish side finished third in the 2019 World Cup and won its second straight Olympic silver in Tokyo during the summer.
Peter Gerhardsson, who replaced Pia Sundhage after the European Championships in 2017, is not a typical Swedish coach.
“In this country, so much of our tactics is about defending,” he told FIFA.com this summer.
“I wanted to change that mentality and focus on what we want to do with the ball.”
Gerhardsson nurtured this reputation as an innovative coach during his time at BK Haken’s men’s side, won a Swedish cup and led them to the Europa League.
After their third place at the 2019 World Cup, when a Dutch goal in the long run denied them a place in the final, Gerhardsson’s philosophy shone through at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Using a 4-2-3-1 formation, they ended the United States’ 44 games undefeated with a stunning 3-0 win and advanced to the final, where Canada beat them on penalties, where Caroline Seger was unlucky to miss a place kick to take the gold medal.
TWO TO SEE
CAPS / GOALS: 77/10
The Chelsea skipper is considered one of the best defenders in the game.
She is as well known for her work off the field as a leading advocate for LGBTQ rights in football and made waves when she was seen kissing her girlfriend, Chelsea teammate Pernille Harder after Sweden’s victory in the 2019 World Cup quarterfinals.
Away from the field, Eriksson holds a degree in political science and is currently studying feminist theory and intersectional power analysis.
CLUB: FC Hacken
CAPS / GOALS: 71/22
The striker’s quality has been marked for a long time, with her six goals driving Sweden in honor of the UEFA U19 European Championship 2015 in Israel, and won that tournament’s gold boot.
A year later, her goal helped Linköping to lift the Swedish title. She spent two seasons with Montpellier in France before returning to Sweden and coming to Hacken last year.
Her five goals, including two in a 3-0 victory against the United States, helped Sweden reach the Olympic final in Tokyo.