Björn On Living Up To World Cup Expectation

Nathalie Björn says the belief inside the Sweden camp can nullify any external pressure placed upon them.

Currently ranked the third best nation in the world, Sweden head into their opening group match on Sunday as strong favourites to go all the way this summer.

Björn – a bronze medallist with Sweden at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup – believes her experience at the latter stages of this competition could aid her nation in their quest to be crowned champions of the world for the first time.  

“I think the biggest difference [from the player who played in 2019] is that I feel more experienced,” she told evetonfc.com.

“I know how this tournament is, how there are many tough games, but it’s also a really nice tournament to play in.

“We play against nations from all over the world and it makes it so unique.

“Women’s football has exploded since the last World Cup; you saw that with the Euros last summer and in the Women’s Super League as well.

“This tournament will be an absolutely amazing experience to watch as a supporter and certainly to play in.

“We (the Sweden camp) have been speaking about the pressure from outside and the most important thing is that we believe in ourselves and what we can do.

“While the last World Cup is a long time ago, we were able to take third place that year. People have high expectations for us, but I feel like as a group we can handle it really well.”

The past two years have been filled with stories of near misses for Sweden. Silver at the Olympic Games and a semi-final defeat to England in the European Championship.

While the Blues defender will hope her nation can leap the final hurdle this year, she is under no illusion of the fierce competition that awaits to get there.

“We have had a few tournaments in the past years that we were really close – especially with the Olympics final,” Björn continued.

“But at the same time, as we improve as a team there are so many nations around the world that are growing too.

“Of course, I would like to say that this is our time, but it’s so hard because the competition is huge.

“It’s a boring answer, but it’s really important that we take it game by game, try to do our best, but we of course want to be in the final.”

Named as Everton’s Players’ Player of the Season for 2022/23, the 26-year-old heads into the tournament in fine form and she hopes the experience of playing in the World Cup this summer can elevate her game even further.

“The experienced I’ve gained so far at major tournaments, it’s been crucial to my development at Everton,” she added.

“I want to bring that experience to help Everton be as successful as possible.

“I feel like I’m getting stronger each season, I’m able to play more games.

“The feeling I get while I’m away with the national team, I want to bring this back to Everton so that we can show what we can do as a group, but also what I can bring as an individual.”

Following Sweden’s group opener against South Africa, Bjorn’s Club teammate Katja Snoeijs will be in action as the Netherlands face Portugal.

The Dutch forward has been in elite form heading into the tournament, scoring six goals in her past seven games for Club and country.

Snoeijs stated that it was crucial that she placed pressure on herself to deliver for Everton in the closing months of the season, and ultimately it paid off.

“Similar to some of my Dutch teammates, we all really wanted to prove ourselves in order to make the final squad,” she explained. 

“I think to put that pressure on yourself, you still want to perform for your club the best you can.

“Domestically, there may have not been a lot to play for at the end of the season, but individually there was for me.

“To be part of that final selection, I’m just so proud to represent my country and I want to enjoy this moment.

“Finishing the season in good form is important ahead of a tournament. Now, it’s important to keep that up over the coming month.”

The Netherlands entered the tournament in strong form, with Snoeijs striking the back of the net in a dominant 5-0 win over Belgium in their last outing.

While confidence could be high amongst the Dutch camp, Snoeijs reiterated they must remain level-headed and take each game as it comes.

“I think we have grown in confidence with our form in previous games,” she added.

“However, I think in a tournament it’s important to regard every game as a different challenge.

“Our main focus currently is on the first match against Portugal and to make sure that we will get our first three points.”