Group F opener for both Sweden and Belgium is on Friday night in Solna as they prepare to compete in the 2024 European Championship. The hosts are coming into the game on the strength of four consecutive wins in friendly competition, while this is Belgium’s first game since being knocked out of the 2022 World Cup in the group round.
Group F of the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers includes Belgium, Austria, Azerbaijan, Estonia, and Sweden. And only the top two teams in this group will go straight to the next round, so every game will be important.
Sweden are having a hard time in international football lately. They didn’t make it to the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. And in September of last year, they tied 1-1 with Slovenia in the UEFA Nations League.
Since that time in Qatar, a lot has changed for the Belgians – bidding adieu to longtime manager Roberto Martinez complemented by a few of their top players calling it a day to their international career. Belgium lost all three of their World Cup games and was kicked out of the group stage because they only got four points. They were thought to be the best in a group with Canada, Croatia, and Morocco. But in the end, they came in third.
Domenico Tedesco, who took over Belgium’s team in February, marks the beginning of a new era for the country. The fact that the visitors didn’t do well at the FIFA World Cup 2022 caused Roberto Martinez to be fired. And now that Tedesco is in charge, they hope things will get better.
While for Sweden, a long-time hero returns from calling quits in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The AC Milan ace has been called up for the first time in over a year, and they look a serious side. Sweden are serious about seizing their opportunities, having a great team and looking to capitalise on that. For Zlatan, he’s no longer a certified starter and will have to earn his place back into the national squad. Viktor Johansson of Rotherham United is the only uncapped player in the squad called-up, with indeed the likes of Victor Lindelof, Emil Forsberg, and Alexander Isak likely to start.
Talking about players that have a lasting impact, there are multiple of those for the visitors – with Jan Vertonghen, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, and Romelu Lukaku expected to remain significant players for Belgium despite the change in management.
Nonetheless talking about change, Tedesco has three uncapped players called up to the squad at his disposal in Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski, Southampton’s Romeo Lavia, and PSV Eindhoven’s Johan Bakayoko. While, Everton’s Amadou Onana has been in good form this season and might start on Friday, and Leicester City’s duo of Timothy Castagne & Wout Faes could potentially play at the back. During this international break, Belgium only has one Euro 2024 qualifying game and a friendly against Germany on March 28.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Trossard has been making big strides during his short time at Arsenal and has established himself as sort of a cult hero at the Emirates. His presence and contribution has helped the Gunners on multiple occasions to maintain that run of form at the top of the table. He could just become an integral part of Domenico Tedesco’s Belgium with the technical ability he possesses and how he can create something out of nothing. He could just be the guy that supports Lukaku and KDB in Belgium, but his touches will dictate their play and he should be someone you need to keep an eye on tonight for Belgium.
Sweden probable starting lineup: Olsen; Holm, Hien, Lindelof, Augustinsson; Claesson, Olsson, Karlstrom, Forsberg; Isak, Kulusevski.
Belgium probable starting lineup: Courtois; Meunier, Vertonghen, Faes, Castagne; Onana, De Bruyne, Lavia; Trossard, Lukaku, Carrasco.