The Swedish women’s national soccer team continued its transformation as head coach Thomas Dennerby handed five players their debut in a pair of September qualifiers for the 2009 UEFA Women’s European Championship.
In addition to the five rookies, Dennerby started several players that have been on the periphery of the team.
“We have a lot of players we want to look at and now is the time,” Dennerby said. “It’s better to see what they can do in matches that count than only in friendlies.”
One of the most watched debutants was Linköping midfielder Kosovare Asllani. The 22-year-old has been a prolific goal scorer in the Damallsvenskan and she didn’t disappoint when she made her national team debut against Romania. Asllani set up Therese Sjögran for Sweden’s first goal in the 32nd minute. Nilla Fischer scored five minutes later as Sweden won the match 2-0.
The Linköping midfielder came on as substitute against Ireland as Dennerby gave three other players their debut and also ran out a new captain. Umeå IK defender Frida Ostberg donned the armband for the first time in her career. Her Umeå teammate Madeleine Edlund scored the lone goal for Sweden in the 42nd minute of the match.
For the Sweden, the pair of victories came without regular stars Hanna Ljungberg, Victoria Svensson, Karolina Westberg, Linda Fagerström, and Sara Johansson. Ljungberg, who missed the 2008 Olympics with a hamstring injury, said it’s proof the next generation of players is ready for the spotlight.
“They are quite different but their qualities are as good or even better than ours,” Ljungberg said. “They have had the chance to play for good coaches and they play in a different way than we do, a little more direct and a little more technical. Hopefully, with experience, they will be able to keep Sweden as a strong team.”
The pair of victories all but assures Sweden of a spot in next year’s Women’s Championship. Sweden has never missed a UEFA tournament. Ljungberg said despite the emergence of players such as Asllani, Charlotte Rohlin, and Nazanin Vaseghpanah, she believes Sweden is due for an injection of new blood.
“I don’t see it as a competition between us and them,” she said. “I’m happy there are some younger players. For me, I have had so many injuries in the last couple of years that if they are better than me, then it’s good. Sweden needs the best players.”