With three Swedish players now in our ranks, the Scandinavian country is our most represented at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Stina Blackstenius, Lina Hurtig and Amanda Ilestedt - the latter of whom arrived in north London only a month before the tournament began - have all kicked off their campaigns in New Zealand strongly, helping their country to an opening 2-1 win.
The 2023 edition is the second World Cup for Blackstenius, who scored two winning goals for Sweden four years ago in France. Our centre-forward is hoping for another impactful tournament leading the line, whilst also relishing the challenges that come with an unprecedented scale of quality and popularity.
“I think we will see lots of differences in this World Cup compared to four years ago. There will be so much more interest and I think it’ll be one of the toughest tournaments we’ve ever played.
“The quality of teams has never been better. In many ways, it will be for the better of the sport and that’s what’s so exciting.”
Reflecting on her journey back in north London over the past 12 months, Blackstenius believes that the resilience built at Arsenal will translate to her national side.
“We have been so strong as a team this season, considering the challenges. The mentality has been really good and I am so impressed by that.
“Going into the World Cup, I have learned that no matter how challenging things can be, you can always create good things if you are a good team and if you believe in what you are doing with the group.
“Hopefully, we will have a lot of fans in the stands but also people around the world who will be following us.”
This summer also marks the second time Hurtig has made the Swedish World Cup squad.
“This feels like another big tournament to prepare for. But obviously, it’s great that the game has grown so much. That can only make it better.”
The 27-year-old forward, who joined us last August from Juventus, was unfortunate with injuries in her debut Arsenal season. But she’s now hoping to get back on track with a huge summer tournament.
“It’s been quite a tough season but the main goal for me was to get fit and get back in training.
“We will see how many Swedes will be able to come and support because it’s a long journey! Sadly my family won’t be there but I think we will feel the support from home regardless.”
As for our latest Swedish recruit, Ilestedt has already made her mark on the tournament in the very first game. In the dying minutes of Sweden’s opening clash with South Africa, the centre-back rose high for a corner delivery to head home decisively and give the Swedes the victory.
After the game, Ilestedt picked up the Player of the Match award and reflected: “I’m really happy that I could help the team with a win. I had a few more chances in the game so I’m happy that I could score in the end!”
Later that evening, there was even time for a certain Barry Manilow song to be played in her honour on the victorious Swedish coach.
Sweden’s next opponents in Group G are Italy. The match kicks off at 8.30am GMT on 29 July.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.