A Look At Sweden’s International Longevity

At the age of 37 Anders Svensson became Sweden’s joint most capped player on Friday night – equalling ex goalkeeper Tomas Ravelli on 143 appearances.

What is perhaps even more astounding is that the versatile midfielder was actually a late comer to the international arena, only making his debut at the age of 23 – okay, it is not veteran status, but you would think a record appearance maker might have started at more of a tender age.

Even more impressive is that Svensson continues to be a prominent component of the first team squad, rather than the fringe player you might expect a man of his years. He has been an integral component in the country’s current qualification campaign – with his three goals only bettered by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Those of you with long memories will remember Svensson playing his trade for Southampton between 2001 and 2005 where he enjoyed a successful spell – including playing in an FA Cup final in 2003. Despite being allegedly offered a new deal he returned to previous club Elfsborg, the club where he joined the Saints from and the only club he has played since. Most of you had probably forgotten his existence for the majority of years that past, and none of us would have expected him to still be scoring winning qualifier goals in 2013.

Surprisingly, he has only made 289 appearances for the Elfsborg despite being part of the club for twelve years – this could perhaps hint at why his international career is so prolonged, given that the Swedish league consists of just 30 games.

Svensson is not alone, of course, as a Sweden international who has seemingly been blessed with the gift of eternal youth. Olof Melberg only recently ended his career at the age of 35, with the defender still even in his twilight years proving a reliable and assured performer. Niclas Alexanderson will be another name remembered in England given spells with several clubs years ago, yet he only retired from national duty as recently as 2008 – at the age of 36. Finally the Swede’s favourite son Henrik Larsson, who was still a threat on the international stage at the ripe old age of 37.

Clearly the Swedes are a nation who age well and in many cases improve with it, whether it is due to their shortened domestic season or something in the DNA – whatever it is we could certainly all do with some. Anders Svensson is the perfect example of this trait and having claimed the cap record he will now have visions of competing in Brazil, after all age is just a number.