Generally credited with their rampaging efforts throughout Europe from the eight to eleventh centuries, Scandinavia deserves far more credit on the continent than just referencing longship raids, exploration, and commercial expertise. Though the northernmost region in Europe is more widely recognized as a producer of brilliant ice hockey players, the nations of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland have given us quite a stunning list of footballers over the years.
Denmark most famously have been the best of the bunch with regards to talent pools. With the likes of Michael Laudrup, Peter Schmeichel, Jon Dahl Tomasson, Thomas Helveg, Mortin Olsen, Soren Lerby, and Allan Simonsen (the only Scandinavian to ever win the Ballon d’Or), Denmark have had their day in the European sun, unlike their regional counterparts.
Sweden has given us a fair few gifted players in their own right as well. Though known for being one of the best in the business in hockey, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Freddie Ljungberg, Henrik Larsson, Martin Dahlin, Thomas Ravelli, Tomas Brolin, Kurt Hamrin, and Gunnar Nordahl have given us ample evidence that Swedes know how to ball.
Though they haven’t given us but a small handful, Norway, Finland, and Iceland have made their contributions as well. Influential Norwegian trio Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer, John Arne Riise, and Tore Andre Flo brought joy to thousands of fans in England during their careers. Kari Litmanen and Sami Hyypia are footballing legends in Finland, while Eidur Gudjohnsen put Iceland on the map with his displays for Chelsea and Barcelona, blazing a trail for his nation’s heroics this past summer in France.
While the majority of football fans continue (and rightfully so) to drool over young players coming through the ranks in Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and smaller nations like Croatia and Serbia, Scandinavia continues to quietly provide us with young players who have all the potential in the world. Two players in particular, Kasper Dolberg (Denmark) and Emil Forsberg (Sweden) look primed to put the region back on the map in earnest.
Kasper Dolberg (19 // Forward)
Born in the city of Silkeborg, Kasper Dolberg was very much unknown to the vast majority of European football enthusiasts until this season. Beginning his education at GFG Vorel before moving to hometown side Silkeborg IF, Dolberg attracted the ever-watchful eye of Ajax Amsterdam before the Dutch giants swooped in last summer. Impressing for the U-19’s, new manager Peter Bosz put faith in the young forward this summer by way of calling him up to the first-team – and he’s been brilliant ever since.
Currently sitting on eleven goals in twenty-one total appearances domestically and in Europe, Dolberg, still just nineteen, is staking his claim to be named the heir-apparent to Jon Dahl Tomasson. For such a young player, Dolberg is proving himself to be absolutely ruthless in the box both in the air and with the ball at his feet, while also showing footballing instincts usually reserved for more seasoned players. Granted, the understanding he’s formed with both Davy Klaasen and new-signing Hakim Ziyech only stands to help him take on the Eredivisie and Europe, but Dolberg’s early season form thus far proves that his potential as a player is quite high.
The young Danish forward has already attracted interest from clubs outside of the Dutch boarders, especially Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who have already scouted the player this season.
Denmark already have some notable attacking options, especially through the likes of former Ajax puppet master Christian Eriksen, and Feyenoord forward Nicholai Jorgensen, but Dolberg could genuinely be the one to succeed where someone like Niklas Bendtner failed. Once a great hope for the country, Bendtner’s eccentricities and failure to really impress at club level held back a career that showed promise, which could have had positive effects for the national team. Though his scoring record for Denmark was decent enough, he never hit the heights of those who have come before him.
With Dolberg currently under the imply of one of the best clubs in the world when it comes to nurturing young talent, the versatile front man has every opportunity to help Denmark re-establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in Europe.
Emil Forsberg (25 // Midfielder)
When one thinks of Sweden, the buck stops at Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Say what you will about his controversial yet hilarious personality, but the big center forward’s goal-scoring ability and pure footballing talent is undeniable. Hands down, he’s been one of the best in the business, supported by the incredible stat of winning the league at every single club he’s ever played at.
Despite Zlatan’s ability, Sweden were a huge disappointment at Euro 2016, with the Swedish talisman failing to genuinely impress. Perhaps the one player who did perform during the summer showcase, however, was RasenBallsport Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg.
Forsberg navigated his youth development domestically, first beginning at small club Duvbo IK P96, before moving to GIF Sundsvall, where he would spend five years. A move to Swedish giants Malmö FF followed, and such was his influence that RB Leipzig shelled out £3million in the summer of 2015. It would not take long for the native of Sundsvall to endear himself to his new fan base, as RBL would go on to win promotion to the Bundesliga, with Forsberg being voted player of the year in the 2.Bundesliga after a wonderful season.
At current, Forsberg is the catalyst behind RBL’s fantastic run to the top of the Bundesliga. His five goals and five assists in just eleven total appearances is a brilliant return, while his talismanic performances overall have played a key role in Leipzig’s brilliant brand of football. Perhaps this is the type of player Sweden has needed.
If there is anything that can help a national team rebuild and push onward after losing one of the best players in the nation’s history, it’s someone who leads by example. Big personalities are always entertaining, but perhaps what Sweden truly need in the wake of Zlatan is a player who can put his head down and quietly push the team forward.
Sweden, like Denmark, continue to bring through young players of note, such as the highly-touted Victor Lindelof, Sam Larsson, Emil Krafth, and Linus Wahlqvist. A personality such as Ibra’s could have been potentially damaging to players looking to grow and mature both on and off the pitch. A more nurturing environment could be just the prescription that Sweden needs, with Forsberg being the medicine best prescribed to model yourself after.