Until this year Sweden had never qualified for any Under-17 tournament but have now claimed FIFA U-17 World Cup bronze behind Nigeria with Valmir Berisha top-scoring.
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Before this year Sweden had never qualified for an Under-17 final tournament at any level. On Friday they claimed FIFA U-17 World Cup bronze behind winners Nigeria to follow up their first European semi-final.
Having made the last four in May on their UEFA European U17 Championship debut in Slovakia, Sweden joined that tournament's winners Russia, plus Italy, Slovakia, Croatia and Austria in the United Arab Emirates for the U-17 World Cup. Yet while Austria and Croatia fell at the group stage and Slovakia, Italy and Russia all exited in the round of 16, Sweden qualified from their section by beating Iraq, holding Nigeria and losing to Mexico, before defeating Japan and Honduras 2-1 to reach the last four.
There they fell 3-0 to Nigeria – who overcame Mexico by the same scoreline in the final – but Sweden saw off Argentina 4-1 in the third-place play-off to ensure the top three in the competition were the same as in their group-stage pool. Valmir Berisha claimed a hat-trick against Argentina to take his tally to a tournament-leading seven. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Adriano and Cesc Fàbregas, Berisha said: "A bronze medal and the Golden Boot – I'm putting it in the living room for everyone to see!"
The fourth Swedish goal in that 4-1 win, as well as an assist, came from Carlos Strandberg, a player who despite his tender age has played frequently this season in the Swedish top flight with BK Häcken. "It's been a fantastic night," he said. "We've celebrated in the best possible way, by talking about the great memories."
Roland Larsson, in charge of this age group for the past 15 years, had never steered a team to a final tournament before. The crop of 2013 certainly made up for past shortcomings. "I'm happy and proud to have been a part of this," he said.
Sweden's latest U17 squad under Magnus Wikman remain in the running for the 2013/14 European finals in Malta having progressed from qualifying round Group 2 to the elite round in March.