- Caroline Seger set to break European football’s selection record
- The Swedish captain is also preparing for her fourth Olympic Tournament
- She talks about the highlights of her career and the victory against the USA in 2016
Caroline Seger is about to make football history. Next week, the Swedish captain will play her 214th and 215th international matches, which will make her the record holder for selections not only in Sweden but also throughout the European continent.
The prestigious record she is approaching is currently held by two legends of women’s football: Birgit Prinz and Therese Sjogran. The latter also served as a mentor to Seger in the midfield at his debut in Swedish selection. Today she is the sports director of her club, FC Rosengard, and also happens to be her best friend.
Despite the glory and pride associated with this consecration, Seger sees further. The next Olympic Games, her fourth, are on the horizon, full of promise, as is the UEFA Women’s EURO. And if the level of form, health and motivation are still there, we could well find Seger in front of Sweden in 2023, for what would be his fifth FIFA Women’s World Cup ™ and his 14th big competition with the Blue-yellow.
There was therefore no lack of subjects during his interview with FIFA.com, where it was about records, penalties and… Ferrari.
Caroline, when you celebrated your 200th appearance for the Swedish team by a win over England in the bronze medal match at the World Cup, your teammates told you: “You can’t hang up now. You have to stay for the Olympics”. When these were postponed for a year, did you reconsider your decision to continue your career?
Well, I signed a three-year contract with Rosengard right after the World Cup so in my head that committed me to playing three more years. I’m not even sure I’ll quit once I finish my contract. Even when the Olympics and EURO were postponed, I had only one thing in mind: to continue playing for the national team and to reach the new deadlines. I also had this big goal, which was to beat the European selection record. And above all, football remains my passion and I love to find the national team. For me, it’s like a second family today. When the time comes for me to stop, I will feel it; I have always known that. But for now, either physically or mentally, I don’t have the feeling that this moment has arrived.
You are very close to breaking this record for selections. Have you been thinking about it for a long time?
The player who holds the record today is my best friend so you can imagine that we often joke about it! But honestly, it’s not been very long since I attached importance to it. It was very strong for me to reach the 200 caps mark. And the most important thing has always been to perform well in competition. But when you approach a record, it’s clear that you want to beat it and not let it go. It’s quite an accomplishment and I want to see my name above Therese’s at the top of the list! (laughs) It will be nice to be in first place and I will be proud to make history, for sure. But I won’t just break the record. I think I have to continue for a few more years to add a few selections, just to stay in place for a while! (laughs)
You spoke about your commitment over three additional years from France 2019. The next World Cup falls just beyond this period. Are you planning to attend as well, or are you going to let it happen?
At this point in my career, I have to take things as they come, not cut corners. I need to have the energy and the physical abilities to be up to the task. Today, it is and I do not want to announce my retirement after the Olympic Games or the EURO. If my body holds up, if I feel good in my head and if I keep this passion for football, I think I can still play for a few more years. But I also realize that my career will eventually end, even though it makes me sad to think about it.
Do you never feel a drop in motivation, even when you have to do a big session in the cold and the wind?
If I’m to be perfectly honest, sometimes things get stuck on that side. Things change over the years and since I have been playing soccer for a long time, some practices and games are not fun. But overall, I still feel a great passion for football and I really want to give back to this sport what it has given me. So on days when it’s windy, when it’s raining and I wonder what I’m doing there, I always find resources to move forward. It’s a matter of state of mind.
Sweden recently drew 1-1 with the United States and are also the last team to beat the world champions in a major competition, on penalties at the 2016 Olympics. The American selection still stands out. scarecrow in Tokyo. What do you think are the keys to competing with this team?
First of all, you have to have two essential things in football: quality and mentality. The United States is a country of 360 million people where the national team is the top priority. The championship is articulated around the national team whereas in Europe, it is the reverse. As the American selection is at the center of everything, the internationals can better train and prepare. And then if they have an injury, they have 10 high quality players behind. For Sweden and all the opposing teams in the United States right now, you have to make the perfect match. You can’t afford the slightest mistake or skip concentration. They’re the best team in the world and it’s not for nothing. But the Americans are not invincible and we showed it in Rio, even though we spent a lot of time defending! (laughs)
Let’s talk about this match, precisely. You must have taken your penalty when Sweden were 3-2 behind on penalties after the failure of Linda Sembrant. So you were under pressure. You remember ?
I have fond memories of this match. I really had the feeling that the fans were on our side and there was an amazing atmosphere in the stadium. Regarding the penalty shootout, it’s funny that you told me about that. I was so focused that I don’t think I even realized I was shooting after a failure. On the other hand, I remember perfectly the feeling of freedom that I felt after scoring. I said to myself: “At least I will have done my part”. Our team believed they were capable of winning this game. When the opportunity arose, we had the strength of character to take this game. It’s an extraordinary feeling, especially since we won this match in an exceptional stadium, in front of lots of people.
You have participated in many competitions with Sweden, but it was in Rio that you had your best result reaching the final. Do you consider these Olympics as the high point of your career?
In fact, I think it was even better at the 2019 World Cup. At the Olympics, we had a very good result, but we also spent a lot of time defending. I think it was in the final that we had our best game, even though we lost. But at the last World Cup, we played a lot better. In all my years in the national team, I believe that we have never played as well as in France. It has been extraordinary and very satisfying for me to see the progress of this team and the evolution of their game.
Has this development continued since France 2019? Should we expect to see Sweden present the same face in the next competitions, that of a team that goes forward and tries to impose its game?
I sincerely hope so. If we play this way, with this quality, it is thanks to our staff. He has worked hard to evolve the traditional Swedish style of play. It’s simple, it’s by modifying certain details in the way we train that we have made overall progress. The players really had no trouble adjusting. I hope we will continue on this path. I also have the feeling that it is a necessity because it is this style of play that will give the best results in the future.
In club, you had a very good season in the Champions League before to be eliminated by Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals. How difficult is it for clubs like Rosengard to compete with the greats of Europe?
It is very difficult and it is above all a question of investment. In Sweden, we don’t have big men’s clubs to support us, to finance the development of women’s teams. On this point, there is not much to do. But we can still make some improvements. I am thinking in particular of the fact that we had not yet started our season when we played our quarter-final. Sweden must study the possibility of changing the calendar of its championship in order to align with the rest of Europe, to be on the same pace as the others and have more chances against these very big clubs.
Even if this poses big challenges for Swedish club football, you must be happy to see these big clubs investing in women’s football, with all the opportunities that this implies, especially since you have played for PSG?
Naturally. I would like to be 15 today! (laughs) This is precisely what I have been fighting for all these years. I am delighted that women’s football is being accorded the respect it deserves and which we have won. Today, when a young player stands out and I ask her about her dreams, she answers: “Maybe Barcelona, or Lyon, or Manchester United”. It’s great because when I was young the United States was the only possible option for a career. I am delighted with the development of things. And when I see Hanna Bennison or another player overtaking me in Ferrari, I tell myself that I had something to do with it! (laughs)