Tomas Brolin: Sweden’s best at the World Cups

Tomas Brolin’s ability to play as a striker, a central midfielder as well as winger was on full display in the USA.

Tomas Brolin (in yellow) of Sweden during the 1990 World Cup in Genoa, Italy.   -  Getty Images

A baby-faced youngster with a thick mop of hair took the field for Sweden in its opening game of the 1990 World Cup against Brazil. Playing its first World Cup in 16 years, Sweden lost 2-1 to Brazil, the favourite to win the title. But Tomas Brolin, the young striker, captured the attention of the world with a snap strike from the top of the box.

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Impressed by his goalscoring ability for his club IFK Norrköping, Sweden’s coach Olle Nordin had drafted Brolin in his squad as a possible solution to its finishing woes in the World Cup qualifiers. While the World Cup itself was a disaster for Sweden, it kickstarted a successful professional career for Brolin, who joined Parma and had five good seasons with the Italian club.

Brolin was the key player for Sweden when it hosted the 1992 European Cup. His 82nd minute strike sunk England and took Sweden to the semifinals. It lost to Germany in that match, but Brolin found the net again and established himself as a reliable striker for his country.


USA 1994 was the high point of Brolin’s career. Sweden eased through the qualifiers and Brolin arrived in the USA at the peak of his powers. He created goals for strikers and scored one of the most memorable ones of the Cup through a set piece in the quarterfinal against Romania. Sweden had earned a free kick and Stefan Schwatz got ready to take it. He instead jumped over the ball as Håkan Mild pushed it towards the box. Brolin, who had positioned himself with the Romanian wall, broke away and scored with a clinical finish. He scored two more goals during the World Cup as Sweden finished a credible third.

Brolin’s ability to play as a striker, a central midfielder as well as winger was on full display in the USA, and he was named on the All-Star Team. But an ill-fated move to Leeds United after the tournament was his career plunge, and injuries and a loss of form brought a premature end to his career. Nevertheless, he remains the best player to turn out for his country in World Cups.

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