Both sides played in UEFA Nations Leagues. Norway played in League C and was a member of group 3, together with Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Slovenia. Norway recorded four wins, one draw, and one defeat and was the winner of the group. With that result, Norway secured promotion to League B and the eventual play-off for Euro 2020.
Sweden played in League B. Together with Russia and Turkey, Sweden was in group 2. Sweden recorded two wins, one draw, and one defeat. Russia had the same score and both teams had seven points. But, Sweden had a better head-to-head score and finished in first place. Sweden secured promotion to League A and the eventual play-off for Euro 2020.
When we talk about qualifications for UEFA Euro 2020, these teams are in Group F together with Spain, Romania, Malta and Faroe Islands. At the end of qualifications, first, two teams will qualify for the final tournament. Norway and Sweden are teams which assured of at least play-offs thanks to first places in Nations Leagues. In their first match in these qualifications, Norway played as the guest against Spain. It was 2-1 for Spain. Sweden was host against Romania, and secured a win (2-1).
70-year-old Lars Lagerbäck is the manager of Norway. Interesting thing is that he is from Sweden. Before his arrival, Norway played in different formations. But, under his guidance, Norway plays exclusively in classic 4-4-2. Lagerbäck chose a team with many tall players. All central players are tall (all over 1,87 m), excepted ex-Manchester United player, Joshua King.
Janne Andersson, a 56-year-old manager, is the head coach of Sweden. Under his guidance, Sweden also plays exclusively in classic 4-4-2. Lustig got injured against Romania and he was out of action. RB Leipzig‘s Emil Forsberg has left his national team’s camp and missed the game. Victor Lindelof withdrew from the Sweden squad with his wife set to give birth.
Norway’s attacking strategy and Sweden’s response
Norway played in classic 4-4-2. But, in attacking phase they made some changes. When Norway has the ball in their possession, wingers move inside. Together with central midfielders, they form a rhombus in the middle. The rhombus is usually formed on the ball side area. If necessary, one central midfielder drops deep to form back three together with central defenders. Full backs secure width and they go high when the team has the ball.
Generally, Norway played long. Central backs usually had a task to play long. Sometimes they play long for side backs, but usually, long balls were played on strikers. But, that strategy wasn’t so effective. Sweden’s midfield and defensive lines were compact and close enough to each other. So, when Norway played long on strikers and Sweden’s central backs cleared the ball, midfield line was close to the ball and usually won the second ball easily. Usually, ball side winger of Sweden close down opponent’s side back and other three players drop deep to win the second ball. Also, Norway attacked usually down the flanks. full backs were key for attacking phase. When full back crossed the ball, far side winger came inside.
Sweden’s defensive strategy
Sweden played defence in a classic 4-4-2 formation. They used a man-marking system. Winger generally closed down opponent’s full back. Sweden played defence in the middle block. When Norway had a positional attack, usually they didn’t press high. When Norway played the ball back, then Sweden pressed them. Usually one of the strikers pressed central back with the ball and other players closed down passing options.
Sweden’s attacking strategy and Norway’s problems
Sweden’s 4-4-2 in the attacking phase was different from Norway’s. Side backs in Sweden weren’t so offensive oriented as Norway’s. As we saw, Norway generally used flanks for attacking. Sweden was more central oriented. In principle, Sweden had two main attacking strategies. The first strategy was playing long to their strikers. Like in the defensive phase, the midfield line was close to the ball again and tried to win the second ball. Norway had a problem because the gap between their defensive and midfield line was too big.
Also, Sweden tried to play between lines. One of the strikers (usually Quaison) or one of the wingers dropped deep to use the gap between the lines. Also, they tried to exploit this gap with quick passing combinations and movements.
The second strategy was pressing after they lost the ball. When Norway had a positional attack, Sweden usually didn’t press them. But, when Sweden lost the ball in the final third, they tried to win the ball and create a goalscoring situation. They used this strategy especially when they had more players near the ball.
It was a very exciting match with six goals. After the first 45 minutes, it was 1-0 for Norway. We saw five goals in the second half. It was 2-0 for Norway until the 70th minute. Then Sweden scored three goals, but in 97th minute Kamara secured one point for Norway.
Sweden was the better side. According to Wyscout, Sweden had xG 4.18 and Norway had xG 1.76. But, in the end, it was 3-3.