Famous for the birth of world famous brands such as IKEA and Volvo, an abundance of Eurovision winners and the concept of Fika (coffee and cake basically), Sweden is a big player in several markets.
When it comes to football however, it’s fair to say the Allsvenskan, the Swedish top flight, doesn’t quite rank alongside some of the exports mentioned above.
This said, the 2015 Allsvenskan played out a quite fascinating title race and featured the rise of a relegation candidate to the top of the league; almost as remarkable as the Leicester City fairytale unravelling in England as we speak.
IFK Norrköping, having just escaped relegation on the penultimate day of the 2014 season, battled with AIK Stockholm and IFK Göteborg at the top end of the table, playing a refreshing brand of attacking, free-flowing football, winning many admirers, as well as many points along the way.
Despite a run of tricky fixtures during the final weeks of the season ‘Peking’ – as they’re known by their ardent supporters – put together an impressive run of eight victories in nine games (including a last day win at preceding Champions Malmö) to capture the title and cap a truly stunning turnaround for an unfancied team heavily tipped for another relegation battle.
Just like Leicester, the prospect of mixing it with the big fish in the Champions League awaits IFK Norrköping, for what will be their first appearance in Europe for sixteen years.
First up though, just 153 days since clinching their first league championship for twenty-seven years, it’s a return to the scene of last season’s triumph for Norrkoping as they travel south for a swift reunion with Malmö in the opening fixture of Allsvenskan 2016.
Malmö FF v IFK Norrköping @ The Swedbank Stadion
2nd April 2016, Match Day 1
Malmö FF have been installed as the favourites to win the league across the majority of betting platforms for what would be their twenty-second league success.
To be fair, as the most successful club side in Swedish football it’s hard to disagree with these early predictions and with a previous fifth place finish leaving Malmö without European football altogether this season, many will be wary of Malmö ‘the wounded animal’ this time around.
IFK Norrköping, despite their heroics last term, are clear underdogs for this match but this young team will hold no fear and look to the prolific strike force of Christoffer Nyman and Allsvenskan 2015 top scorer Emir Kujovic for their attacking prowess.
Manager Janne Andersson has acquired smartly in the close season and continued with his philosophy of signing young, hungry Swedish talent – Sebastian Andersson and Eric Smith the most notable additions.
In terms of exits, Alexander Fransson has departed for pastures new with FC Basel to help fill the void left by Mohamed Elneny, now plying his trade in the English Premier League with Arsenal.
Despite the loss of the influential Fransson, (Janne) Andersson will be grateful to keep the majority of his squad intact – at one point it looked as if his title winning team could be dismantled and sold off to interested parties around Europe.
An entertaining score draw with Norrköping more than holding their own against the favourites for their crown.
By Nicholas Albert, TFN Columnist on 02/04/2016 at 12:41
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickAlbert89