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Analysis Sweden’s Euro - Fridolina Rolfö, second best, according to the numbers

Sverige (dam)

This article is a collaboration between Mia Eriksson and Jesper Haglöf, data analyst from PlaymakerAi, a Swedish football analysis platform. It presents a different take on the performances from a couple of the Swedish players in the Euro 2022. Was it really that “bad”?

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Sweden’s dreams about winning the Euro 2022 ended in the semi final after a 4-0 loss against England. The expectations were clear - at least the goal was to reach the final at Wembley, but of course the dream was about a gold medal. The players themselves said it before the tournament kicked off, media and experts - most people agreed on the fact that Sweden deserved to be seen as one of the favourites.

Once again I have had the honour to work together with data analyst Jesper Haglöf from PlaymakerAI. We have taken a closer look at some of the players in Sweden that played the most minutes in the tournament; Fridolina Rolfö, Kosovare Asllani, Nathalie Björn and Magdalena Eriksson.

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Football is not that easy and the information in this article is just one way to look at individual players' performances.

Everything in this article, all the statistics and data, come from Sweden’s games in the Euro 2022.

The data from Playmaker is based on something called Expected Threat (xT) and can be explained like this:

Expected threat is a probability model for football that is based on how much more likely the team's ball possession will end up in a goal when the ball is moved on the field from point A to B.

Expected threat evaluates correct passes and carries / dribbles of the ball. Based on this, you can evaluate which players contribute the most to making the team's ball possession more likely to result in a goal or make the ball possession  "more dangerous" / causing a threat that will lead up to a goal or a chance to score a goal.

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Fridolina Rolfö
The expectations on the superstar from Barcelona, Fridolina Rolfö, have probably never been higher before entering an international tournament with Sweden than it was at this time.

Rolfö entered the Euro 2022 coming from a very successful season with one of the best club teams in the world. The Swede is the latest player that has been awarded with the “Player of the year” award - Diamantbollen - in Sweden and without a doubt she was seen as one of the most important players when she stepped out at Bramall Lane in Sweden’s opener against the Netherlands when the tournament kicked off at the beginning of July.

When Sweden played against Switzerland the left winger was on fire. One goal and one assist but even so, the critics seem to have something to say. The criticism grew with every game Sweden played, where it seemed that many expected more from Rolfö than what she actually delivered.

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Rolfö’s spider shows us that she was playing way better on her position than the average player in tournament. 

If looking at all data throughout the tournament she was, in fact, the second best left winger - only Germany’s Klara Bühl beat her to it.

Rolfö’s strengths and abilities on the pitch are plenty but two of her biggest might have been seen as carries and dribbles. The picture above shows every carry and dribble that Rolfö did in the Euro. It also shows where she made them.

Looking at carries Rolfö was the player in Sweden that caused the highest xT on average per 90 minutes.

She was also the fourth most successful player on average per 90 minutes looking at dribbles among all players in the tournament.

Rolfö was also very active from the left-hand side within the passing game and the picture above shows all her passes with the highest xT value. 

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Kosovare Asllani
AC Milan's new No. 9 - Kosovare Asllani came into the Euro tournament from a tough season with Real Madrid in the Primera Iberdrola. Injuries had been bothering the Super Swede but even though she hadn’t had many regular minutes during the season she delivered football at the very highest level in England where she played every single minute in all five games for Sweden.

Looking at Asllani’s spider from the Euro won’t make you neither sad or disappointed. 

Everything Asllani did were above average but something that really stands out and sets her apart from other players is that she was the player in the tournament that passed the ball the most times into the box.

While also being very active in the final third she was also one of the players in the Euros that carried the ball into the box (PA) on average per 90 minutes compared to other players in the Euro 2022.  She delivered a lot of passes to her teammates to set them up with good opportunities to score and in the image below we can see what other players that received her passes.

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To also visualise where Asllani was operating on the pitch you can look at all of her carries and dribbles made from the tournament to see where Milan’s new forward likes to challenge her opponents.

Nathalie Björn
Just like Asllani, Nathalie Björn came into the tournament with less playing time from club football than usual due to injuries. Even so, just like Asllani she played every single minute for Sweden and not only that; instead of playing in her regular position as a centre back she had to steer the wheel at the centre midfield when Sweden’s captain Caroline Seger got injured. 

Björn said it herself after one of the game that she really, really needed to practise her finishing and as we can see looking at her spider, she was telling us the absolute truth. Apart from that metric, there’s not much to complain about. 

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Well known for being a good passer we can also see that her numbers from xT passes per 90 minutes played are above average.

From her defensive position and from having the role of being a link player between the backline and the attack she also made several key passes during the tournament.

Where her defensive actions took place we can see at the heat map below.

Björn is well known for her defensive skills as well as the already mentioned above, passing skills and according to Willie Kirk, who was the one that got her to sign with Everton, she has the abilities to become one of the best centre backs in Europe in the near future. As a national team player for Sweden, it remains to be seen, on whether Peter Gerhardsson will choose to play Björn as a centre midfielder in order to replace Caroline Seger in the future or if she will continue to play as defender wearing the Swedish match shirt from now on.

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Magdalena Eriksson
The Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson had also been sidelined due to injury for three months in the middle of season. Together with Amanda Ilestedt she was the defender that started every game in England even though the backlined changed in constellation every time. Eriksson served both as a centre-back in a back three and four but, she also played fullback one game when Covid-19 appeared in the Swedish squad. 

Looking at duels and xT prevented Eriksson’s spider shows us that she still played at a high level.

Together with Linda Sembrant Eriksson was the player with the highest numbers per 90 minutes looking at xT prevented among the Swedish players.

Above, the heat map shows Eriksson’s defensive actions and where they were situated on the pitch during the Euro.

She is always an important player in the buildup phase, both for club and country, even though Emma Hayes, the Chelsea coach might use her more in that way due to her technical skills. 

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Progressive passes in distance per 90 minutes played we can see that Eriksson is among the ones that did this more times than the average player in the tournament. 

Conclusion
That Sweden entered the Euro 2022 as one of the favourites was deserved and expected. That they in the end did not manage to go all the way could have been affected by things that were hard to predict. The fact that Sweden was forced to change the backline in every single game due to Covid-19 and injuries and that they had to see their captain sidelined for most of the tournament could be reasons that Sweden never reached their full potential. That and also the fact that many of the Swedish players came from a season where they hadn’t played as many minutes for their respective clubs as they had before playing in the Olympics the year before if you compare to the starting lineups in England, Germany and France.

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However, Sweden was among the final four in a tournament that many will say is harder and tougher to win than both the Olympics and the World Cup and that is not bad.

Publicerad 2022-08-10 kl 10:00

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