A trailblazing nation in the women's game with nearly 100,000 registered players, Sweden continues to set an example both on and off the pitch.
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Sweden won the first UEFA Women's EURO in 1984 and have been at the forefront of the game since, not least by reaching the finals of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup and the Women's Olympic Football Tournaments of 2016 and 2020. On top of that, Umeå enjoyed success in the early days of the UEFA Women's Cup, while Sweden's Damallsvenskan set the standard for other European leagues to follow. Today, there are close to 100,000 registered female footballers in Sweden, which has launched icons including Pia Sundhage and Caroline Seger – the most-capped European in history – and few nations have produced more professional women's players.
Best UEFA competition performance
Senior: UEFA Women's EURO winners (1984)
Youth: UEFA Women's Under-18/U19 Championship winners (1999, 2012, 2015)
Women's football pioneer
The bare facts of Pia Sundhage's career speak volumes: she scored the winning penalty in the 1984 Women's EURO final and experienced massive success as a coach, not least with the United States, Sweden and currently Brazil. But her struggle to even be allowed to play, like much of her generation, makes those achievements all the more remarkable.
"Since I was six years old and playing football, it has been pioneering. You fight to play games, fight for the European Championship and the World Cup. It's been an honour to be around women's football because it has gone from almost nothing to something that is very exciting."
On the pitch…
A shoot-out penalty converted by Sundhage in Luton made Sweden the first UEFA European women's champions in 1984. The game against England was broadcast live on SVT back home and sowed the seeds that later established Sweden as giants of women's football.
…and off it
Sweden were knocked out of Women's EURO 2013 on home soil by Germany in the semi-finals, but there was to be a last act. Ticket sales for the Friends Arena final had surpassed all expectations, even after the hosts were eliminated, and the then competition-record crowd of 41,301 produced their loudest roar at half-time when Sundhage's Sweden squad took a lap of honour.
Sweden lost some ground in the 1990s but reasserted themselves in the following decade thanks to stars such as Hanna Ljungberg, their stature confirmed as they progressed to the 2003 World Cup final in the United States. The Blågult lost to Germany after a golden goal, but the game was the most-watched football match in the history of Swedish television – and the interest generated remains today, with a huge contingent of fans set to travel to England.
Here and now
Joining the game in Sweden
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"Trailblazers" is a unique exhibition that showcases the work of European artists given a blank canvas to celebrate women’s football. UEFA invited artists from participating nations in this summer’s tournament to create an image inspired by the game in their country. Sweden's representative is Petra Eriksson: "I like working with these kinds of blocks and stripes of colour and I wanted to bring that into the image to add a graphic element to it. Obviously, I wanted to work with the Swedish colours to make a connection to my home country and our team, but I also wanted to play with other colours to make it feel positive and inviting. One of the players from the Swedish team that really inspires me is Kosovare Asllani, but my first memories are from the men's World Cup in 1994, I was six years old and I remember being allowed to stay up late to watch some of the games with my mum. Impressively, and a bit surprisingly, we took third place that year and I remember that it felt like all of Sweden was in a kind of football mania."
Investing for the future
Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP)
Since 2010, UEFA's WFDP has provided associations with funding and tools to increase participation, improve standards and build infrastructure to help keep the female game growing. One example of a project funded by the WFDP programme in Sweden is…
To develop and educate young footballers to help them reach the elite level, Sweden focused on education for female players aged 17 to 21 and education in secondary schools for girls aged 13 to 15. Based on their individual needs, players received specialist support in the areas of physiology, fitness, nutrition, sports psychology, technical and tactical abilities, goalkeeping and GPS.
A total of 300 players received support from around 100 national team coaches, with former national elite players acting as mentors, while national and regional camps were set up for players, including special camps for goalkeepers. Among other highlights, the Min Fotboll (My Football) app was downloaded 258,000 times, helping children to learn and stay active.