“It’s so fun to meet up with the team again,” Stina Blackstenius told 90min ahead of Euro 2022. “We are all excited for what’s coming up.”
After a week of camp on home soil, Sweden faced Brazil in one last test before their Euro 2022 campaign begins. The game saw the Scandinavian side win 3-1, with Blackstenius scoring the third with a chipped finish over Lorena in the Brazil goal, taking her goal tally to 26 in 77 appearances for her country.
Blackstenius once again has the potential to become Sweden’s big game player at the Euros. She is known for thriving on the big stage; at the 2021 Olympics, the striker netted five times en route to collecting a silver medal.
“Every tournament I have played has been different from the other,” she said. “This will for sure be a totally new tournament with a lot of good teams and probably a lot of people that will watch our games. And so it will be challenging, but of course I think that we can bring experiences.
“We have got (to take) the World Cup or Olympics (experience) and bring that here. Now, we know for sure what it takes to go as far as we want to. We won the silver, we won the bronze, but not the gold. So, we know by now what it takes to go all the way.”
The current Sweden squad is often labelled as the ‘Golden Generation’. However, they have not yet been able to crown their efforts with a major title. The recent disappointment at the Olympics and the third place at the 2019 World Cup, which sparked a new euphoria around the national team at home in Sweden, will surely add to the motivation the players will travel to England with.
As a collective, Sweden are known for their team spirit, humble approach and will to constantly improve. Their success has been built on a strong defensive record, leaving it up to forwards like Blackstenius to be as clinical as possible in front of goal.
“I will take help from my teammates and if I play, I will just try to do my best,” the striker explained when asked about her efficiency in front of goal. “They are always putting me in good positions and I trust them.”
Sweden have a host of tough games to navigate before they can think about the Wembley final. They start their campaign against the Netherlands on 9 July.
“It’s always like that in tournaments,” reflected Blackstenius. “It’s always a challenge when you’re there and it’s just a few days between the games. But I feel like we have a really good group with good players. I know we will handle it.”
Having made the move to the WSL with Arsenal last January, the 26-year-old gained even more experience against tough opponents, now calling the likes of Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead and Kim Little her teammates at club level.
“When I came to Arsenal the level in training and games are very high”, she explained.
“It’s amazing for me to be around quality players like everyone in the team. And that is just the challenge for me, to be the best I can be in every training. I need to make faster decisions and make everything a bit faster. So, that’s something I tried to do and I think that will make me a better player.”
Since joining Arsenal, she has developed a greater understanding of English football culture. The Euros in England will feel like home.
“I know by now that the fans are very into the games and really passionate,” said Blackstenius. “And that’s something I (think is) cool. But I know that we also need to be prepared for that.”
At Sweden’s pre-tournament camp, the striker had a special encounter with two young fans which made headlines in Sweden. The girls were waiting for her at the team hotel, wearing their Arsenal kits with Blackstenius’ name and number on the back. Visibly moved by their expression of support, she took time to take pictures with and sign autographs for the young girls. The striker promised to sort them out tickets if they ever wanted to attend an Arsenal game with their parents.
“It made me so happy to see (those) two young girls”, Blackstenius said with a smile. “Like a bit inspired, if you can say that, and it makes me happy to see that they are supporting Arsenal. It just means a lot to see young girls coming here and we want to show them that we care for them a lot.”
Throughout encounters like the one during Sweden’s pre-camp, she started to realise the impact she has on the supporters – but doesn’t think of the growing responsibility and attention as an additional pressure
“I’m starting to see it more, now that people are showing up here”, she said. “We need to be the best role models that we can be and we want to. And when (we) are here, (we) write autographs and take pictures, and show them that we care.
“It’s just a fun part of football as well, (being) able to inspire and show them that they can also be footballers if they want to.”
The players received a send-off from 33,218 Swedish fans at the game against Brazil, giving them a flavour of the support they will receive in England.
Blackstenius is among the favourites for the Euro 2022 golden boot, but hasn’t set any individual goals for herself.
“I don’t want to put that pressure on myself,” she emphasised. “Because then I would feel so disappointed if I don’t reach it. I just want to play as much as possible and if I do, I want to bring everything to my team.
“With the team, I just have a big trust in what we are doing and in the way we play. I know we have big potential to (go) far in this tournament and we just need to believe in it.”