Old pals Filippa Angeldal and Nathalie Björn share more than an on-field understanding as they gear up for Sweden's quarter-final against Belgium.
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When Sweden lost captain Caroline Seger to injury ahead of their Matchday 3 assignment against Portugal it was a major blow, but the silver lining was that Filippa Angeldal needed no time at all to adapt to her new partner in central midfield: in came childhood pal Nathalie Björn.
Sweden went on to win 5-0, with Angeldal scoring the first two goals.
"Without Seger we lose a leader, but it also means that I'm now playing with Nathalie and we've played more or less our entire lives together," she told UEFA.com.
"It's great to already have that relationship because it means you don't need to build a new one. Of course, it's difficult to fill the shoes of someone like Seger, but I really think 'Nattis' has done it very well."
Their friendship is a remarkable one. Angeldal and Björn first met when they were only five years old and later went to the same kindergarten, the same school and played football in the same youth team.
They remained firm friends throughout and today are key midfield members of what is arguably Sweden's best national team ever as they prepare to face Belgium in the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 quarter-finals.
"There aren't a lot of people who can say they've done that," Björn told UEFA.com with a smile.
The pair embarked on the same footballing path when they were six. Angedal was keen to play in a team and when her father Christer learned that there were no girls' sides for her age, he teamed up with two other dads to create one. Björn was quick to sign up and her father became the goalkeeping coach.
Vaksala SK girls went on to beat everyone in the duo's age group. So successful were they, in fact, that the girls still won comfortably when they began playing against teams two years older than them.
Christer Angeldal and his fellow coaches decided that their young charges needed to face tougher opponents and signed them up for a boys' league, expecting them to lose more often than not. And yet they won that league too.
At this summer's tournament in England, both players started all of Sweden's group stage games. Angeldal has been a cornerstone of the midfield, while Björn has filled in wherever needed in defence – where she is more comfortable – as well as further forward in place of Seger. She admits that having her friend alongside her has been beneficial.
"It becomes a safety net for me when I play in midfield next to her," Björn explained. "She knows how I work and can help me. We need no more than just eye contact or a gesture to know what the other one needs, whether it's to follow up in attack or to cover in behind while we're pressing. They're small things but it makes it a lot easier for both of us."
"We've followed each other's journey every step of the way," Angedal added. "She's my best friend, my sister. To be able to play together in the national team is a huge honour, something we are really proud of. We've always dreamed of this, being here together."