St. Gallen/Herisau, Switzerland, May 7, 2018- Sweden stole the show at the 2018 IFF U19 Women's Floorball World Championships, romping to their sixth title with five wins in their five games, capping off their tournament with victory over bitter rivals Finland.
They also became the first team to secure a perfect hat-trick of U19 titles, winning the tournament three times in succession, each time ousting Finland in the final.
Camilla Granelid's team is multi-faceted, as is the case with any tournament winning side, but the Swedes in particular owe much to a prolific forward line, as they were free-scoring and formidable in front of goal throughout the competition. Their wins included an opening 29:0 shutout over Germany, the largest margin of victory in the competition, a 14:2 win over Norway, and a 13:2 victory over the Czech Republic to top Group A in the A-Division. They then overcame Poland 10:2 in the semi-finals, before a 7:2 win over the Finns in the gold medal grand finale. That accounts for a combined 73 goals scored, conceding eight.
Five Swedish attacking players topped the A-Division efficiency charts, including forwards Amanda Ljunggren (four goals ten assists), Ellen Bäckstedt (12 goals, six assists), Emma Stenberg (ten goals, three assists), and centre Frida Swahn (11 goals three assists). The fifth, Wilma Johansson, clocked up seven goals but with 13 assists holds the new record for the most in a single U19 World Championships. Between the five, they accounted for 46 of Sweden's 73 goals. Stenberg and Swahn also featured in the A-Division All-Stars squad nominated after the tournament, along with another Swede, defender Linnea Wilhelmsson, who actually clocked up four assists of her own throughout the tournament, despite failing to score. Of the total number of shots they enjoyed as a team in the competition, 225 in a total 471 were on target (47.77%). Individually, the efficiency statistics looked equally impressive. Johansson managed 26 of 41 shots on target, Bäckstedt 23 in 45, Swahn 25 in 47, Ljunggren 21 in 39, and Stenberg 23 in 61- the most wasteful of all, and even then it is still impressive that so many shooting chances were created to begin with.
The quartet of forwards, along with the potent Swahn formed the crux of Sweden's attacking force. However it would not do the Swedes justice were one not to look at the defensive side of their game. Fascinatingly, the numbers show Sweden's philosophy to be attack being the best form of defence, their strongest defensive statistics actually belonging to a duo of forwards.
Much of Sweden's success involved a high-pressing game against the opposition, a form of defending from the front-line, and in terms of physical battles and tackling, forwards Cajsa Elm- who won 19 of her 22 physical battles- and Lisa Carlsson (winning 18 in 22) possessed the strongest tally in the whole Swedish squad. The closest defender to matching such statistics was Vilda Rundfloen, who in 20 physical duels won the ball 13 times across the competition.
Comparing that to their more prolific forwards, Bäckstedt and Ljunggren won no tackles throughout the tournament, Stenberg won two of a attempted four, and Johansson won four in an attempted seven. Swahn was the more successful, with five in an attempted nine. The blade cuts the other way with regards to the attacking statistics of their more defensive forwards: Elm managed three goals and three assists, Carlsson three goals and two assists, with defender Rundfloen managing two goals and two assists.
Attacking wise, therefore, their strongest scorers were more impressive than any forward line across the competition, but defensively the Swedish ranks required reinforcements, and the deploying of two forward lines to fulfil differing tasks is a compliment to not only the versatility in this Swedish squad, but also the organisation of their management.
It is this strength in depth and versatility within the Swedish side that set them apart from the rest, but more importantly such gifted individuals were able to express themselves as a team. Whichever players in yellow were on the court, the high-intensity, high-pressing defensive game, and quick-paced, quick-passing attacking game could be seen in abundance. Having the ability to rely on a set of forwards specialised in creating and scoring goals, and having another set specialised in defending from the front and being physical, is another plus.
But a huge part of their defensive game was owed to impeccable discipline. Several teams across the Championships proved penalty dismissals costly, as opposition capitalised on numerical player advantages. In five games, the Swedes have away a mere two penalties, both going against Cajsa Elm, who, on the other hand, was also the most effective defensively and had put in the most challenges. Thus, this statistic could be largely expected. Their nearest rivals Finland, to put this into perspective, conceded ten.
When taking the statistics into consideration, it reveals not only that Sweden are a dominant team on the court, but for all their strengths they play Floorball the right way and in a fair manner, which makes them more than a match for any team on any day in any competition, and there is no reason to believe that this dominance will cease any time soon if this is the next generation to step up for the Senior Squad. As for the next crop of youngsters entering the U19 side, given the displays they have put in over the previous three tournaments, they are sure to be in capable hands with Granelid's management team nurturing their talent. It only remains to be seen as to who the next crop of youngsters are on the Swedish conveyor belt of ability.