Sweden have been one of the feel-good stories of the EHF EURO 2018. Few gave them a chance, especially after the first game loss against Iceland, but the Scandinavian side has bounced back and earned a final berth at the expense of Denmark.
It was an arduous journey, but the never-give-up mentality is what made it so great. A tale about strength of character and a team-first approach was what brought Sweden so far in the competition, despite their problems.
And all could have been for nothing, if not for Mattias Zachrisson. The 27-year old started the tournament as a right wing, but played as a right back against Denmark and did it in superb style.
Zachrisson was Sweden’s best scorer, with eight goals, and shocked the tall Danish defence, who seemed unaware of his potential. At only 178 cm tall, Zachrisson played like a veteran right back and scored important goals in crucial moments. But how was Zachrisson converted into a make-shift right back?
After Johan Jakobsson and Albin Lagergren, crucial players for Sweden, both in defence and attack, fell down with concussion, Zachrisson was the obvious choice for coach Kristjan Andresson.
“Before I joined Füchse Berlin, I mostly played on the back position. Since I am in Berlin I only play there, if another player is injured. Now the same happened in the national team: Two right backs are injured, I am back on this position. I like to play as a right back,” says Zachrisson.
Now, the speedy player is one of the most important players in the Swedish team, who needs another great outing from Zachrisson against Spain
“It will be a close fight, but we like to be the underdog, so I would say that Spain has 51 per cent chances and we have only 49 per cent.
“We have amazing team spirit, every player brings his strengths here and we fight together until the very end. Defence will be key and goalkeepers will need to up their game even more,” adds Zachrisson, who won the silver medal in the Olympic Games in 2012, after being a late call-up to replace injured Dalibor Dodig.
“We have a great chance to win the gold medal and I hope we will take it,” concluded the Swedish player.