Sweden’s Kosovare Asllani has a very different view of the Women’s World Cup third-place match to Phil Neville, who labelled it a “nonsense” game, and it is fair to say that plenty of her compatriots agree with her. When the Sweden team returned from the victory over England that secured a bronze medal they were greeted by 30,000 fans in Gothenburg.
“A sign of a nation that is proud of us,” says Asllani, the midfielder who scored her country’s opening goals against Chile and England. The staggering reception came as a pleasant surprise to a squad not wholly aware of the momentum building back home during their run to the semi-finals.
“It’s always hard to know because you’re kind of in your own world,” Asllani says. “You’re just preparing for the next training, next game. Obviously we heard a little bit that people are like going crazy in Sweden and really watching the football in all sports bars and outdoors and we just felt like the whole country was behind us. We had our prime minister at two of our games, our prince came.
“Having 30,000 looking so happy and proud and just celebrating our medal … it’s not only our medal, we feel like the medal belongs to the whole nation and the next generation, all the young girls that really, really looked up to us and have us as role models because that’s what it’s all about and hopefully will get more girls to start playing football.”
Asllani, whose Kosovan Albanian parents mean she is a poster girl for Sweden’s immigrant communities, has played in two Olympics: London 2012 and Rio 2016, where Sweden handed the USA a shock quarter-final defeat on the way to a silver medal.