Sports Mole previews Friday’s Euro Champ Qualifying clash between Sweden and Belgium, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sweden and Belgium will begin their respective 2024 European Championship qualification campaigns with a Group F encounter in Solna on Friday night.
The home nation will enter the match off the back of four straight friendly victories, while this will represent Belgium’s first match since being eliminated in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup.
Sweden were not present at the finals of the 2022 World Cup, but they were in action at Euro 2020, reaching the last-16 stage of the competition before being beaten by Ukraine.
The Blue and Yellows have never won a European Championship, but they reached the semi-finals of the 1992 competition and were also present in the quarter-finals back in 2004.
Janne Andersson‘s side will enter this match off the back of four friendly wins over Mexico, Algeria, Finland and Iceland, with their victories over Finland and Iceland coming in January.
Sweden are in Group F alongside Belgium, Austria, Azerbaijan and Estonia, an they will be expecting to claim a top-two position in the section, but the same can also be said for Belgium.
Andersson’s team, who will take on Azerbaijan in their second match in the group on March 27, have not been in competitive action since drawing 1-1 with Slovenia in the UEFA Nations League last September.
Belgium, meanwhile, suffered huge disappointment at the 2022 World Cup, failing to progress through the group stage of the competition despite picking up four points from their three matches.
The Red Devils have reached the quarter-finals of each of the last two European Championship finals, while their best performance in the competition was back in 1980, finishing as the runners-up.
Belgium are entering a new era, with Domenico Tedesco now in charge of the national team, with the 37-year-old being appointed head coach at the start of February.
Tedesco, who was previously RB Leipzig head coach between December 2021 and September 2022, will be desperate to unlock what is a very talented squad, and there are still plenty of familiar faces in the squad despite the exit of Roberto Martinez.
The Red Devils will only play one Euro 2024 qualifier during this international break, with their next match on March 28 a friendly against Germany, before returning to competitive action in the middle of June.
Sweden form (all competitions):
Belgium form (all competitions):
Sweden have Zlatan Ibrahimovic back in their squad, with the striker called up at the age of 41, one year after making his last appearance for the national side.
Having now recovered from a serious knee injury, Ibrahimovic has said that he is open to featuring at Euro 2024, but he is no longer considered to be an automatic starter for the national side.
Rotherham United’s Viktor Johansson is the only uncapped player in the squad, and there are expected to be starts for the likes of Victor Lindelof, Emil Forsberg and Alexander Isak in this contest.
As for Belgium, Thibaut Courtois, Jan Vertonghen, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku are set to remain important players for the national side moving forward despite the change of manager.
There are three uncapped players in the squad, though, with Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski, Southampton’s Romeo Lavia and PSV Eindhoven’s Johan Bakayoko hoping to be involved.
Amadou Onana has been in strong form for Everton this season and could start on Friday, while Leicester City duo Timothy Castagne and Wout Faes could both feature at the back.
Sweden possible starting lineup:
Olsen; Holm, Hien, Lindelof, Augustinsson; Claesson, Olsson, Karlstrom, Forsberg; Isak, Kulusevski
Belgium possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Meunier, Vertonghen, Faes, Castagne; Onana, De Bruyne, Lavia; Trossard, Lukaku, Carrasco
We say: Sweden 1-1 Belgium
Belgium have won their last three games against Sweden, with the home side not beating their opponents here since 1961. This has all of the makings of a very interesting game, but we are struggling to separate the two teams, ultimately settling on a low-scoring draw.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.