There's no more lingering threat of Zlatan Ibrahimovic altering Sweden's calculus, and what worked so well during World Cup qualifying can be put in motion in Russia.
Now that the frenzied media circus focused on whether LA Galaxy star attraction Zlatan Ibrahimović will be at the World Cup with Sweden has died down, the national team can finally concentrate of the tournament itself.
Sweden had not qualified for the World Cup since 2006 and it will be eager to make a mark on the grand stage this summer. Sweden has a pretty solid record when it does reach the World Cup, having finished third on two occasions (1950, 1994) and falling at the final hurdle against Brazil in 1958. The last two times it qualified, in 2002 and 2006, it reached the knockout stage.
Swedish fans will be eager to their side return to glory again in Russia this summer, as Janne Anderssen's side attempts to deliver a sterling showing despite the odds being against them in their group. Here's a closer look at Sweden entering the World Cup.
How They Qualified
Dramatically, that's how. After finishing second in its World Cup qualifying group behind France, but ahead of the Netherlands and Bulgaria, Sweden then faced the unenviable task of taking on four-time World Cup winner Italy in the playoff round.
The Swedes clinched a 1-0 win during the first leg in Solna, before putting in the defensive performance of a lifetime to seal a famous 0-0 in the cavernous San Siro to deservedly secure their place in this summer's competition.
Group Stage Games
Defeating Italy didn't wind up gifting Sweden a sweetheart draw.
Along with defending World Cup champion Germany, Sweden (ranked 23rd in the world) will also have to face Mexico (15th), and the rather more lowly, yet still potentially dangerous South Korea (61st) in the group stage.
Mexico hasn't failed to get out of the group since 1978, which suggests it could be a strong rival for Sweden to finish in second place, presuming Germany handles its business.
In an ideal scenario, Sweden begins its campaign with a win against South Korea, before digging (very) deep for a draw against Germany, which could allow them to progress with another point against Mexico in the final group game.
Possible Route to the Final
Topping the group isn't something that's likely to happen, with Germany near certain to power its way to the top of the table. A second-placed finish is what Sweden needs to realistically aim for, and picking up four points should be the minimum tally to achieve this.
Should Sweden escape the group, a second-round clash will most likely see the Swedes face title contender Brazil, a mighty task indeed. If the South Americans fail to top the group, Switzerland, Serbia or Costa Rica could offer a slightly less tricky affair.
In the quarterfinals, Sweden could face the likes of England, Belgium, Poland or Colombia, with a potential semifinal with Spain waiting beyond that.
No matter how you slice it, it's an uphill battle.
While it may not be a side brimming with the kind of quality present in the squads of many of their contemporaries, there are some real gems in Janne Anderssen's team. RB Leipzig's Emil Forsberg will be expertly pulling the strings in midfield, while Manchester United's Victor Lindelöf and Al Ain's Marcus Berg offer real quality in the back and front of the field, respectively.
Goalkeepers: Karl-Johan Johnsson (Guingamp), Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Swansea), Robin Olsen (FC Copenhagen)
Defenders: Ludwig Augustinsson (Werder Bremen), Andreas Granqvist (Krasnodar), Filip Helander (Bologna), Pontus Jansson (Leeds), Emil Krafth (Bologna), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Victor Lindelof (Manchester United), Martin Olsson (Swansea)
Midfielders: Viktor Claesson (Krasnodar), Jimmy Durmaz (Toulouse), Albin Ekdal (Hamburger SV), Emil Forsberg (Leipzig), Oscar Hiljemark (Genoa), Sebastian Larsson (Hull City), Marcus Rohden (FC Crotone), Gustav Svensson (Seattle Sounders)
Forwards: Marcus Berg (Al Ain), John Guidetti (Alaves), Isaac Kiese Thelin (Waasland-Beveren), Ola Toivonen (Toulouse)
(4-4-2) Olsen; Krafth, Lindelöf, Granqvist, Martin; Durmaz, Hiljemark, Ekdal, Forsberg; Berg, Toivonen.
While Sweden finds itself in a tricky group, its defensive resilience and impressive record of progressing past the group stage in recent history bodes well.
However, a potential second-round clash against Brazil would surely be the end of the road. Expectations in Sweden will be understandably low for this tournament, given that the Swedes haven't qualified since 2006, but they have more than enough in the locker room to pick up a couple of shock results this summer. Beyond that, though, is asking a bit much.