Team Sweden QB Philip Juhlin tired of callbacks to 2005, wants to be ‘the next team people talk about’

Over the course of a career, an athlete can rack up any number of meaningful accomplishments. Statistical records will pad the ego. MVP awards will carve you a place in history. Championships will make sure that place is never forgotten. But when so many of history’s elite athletes have retired and look back on their life’s work, one special accomplishment so often stands apart from the rest: the chance to represent their country internationally at the highest level.

That’s a privilege that Philip Juhlin has plenty of experience with. A Swedish-American quarterback raised in Tennessee, he first got the chance to suit up for his homeland of all the way back at the 2014 World Championships. Every time since has been just as meaningful.

“It has always been a really cool experience for me playing for the Swedish national team,” Juhlin said as the team’s training camp began Wednesday. “To compete in the sport that I love on a level like this is something that very few get to do, so I try to always take full advantage every time I get the chance.”

Not unlike those currently making headlines at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Juhlin and his teammates will get a chance to carry the blue and gold nordic cross of their country into competition when they take on Team Finland in the European Championship semi-final on Saturday. They’ll also have a similar goal on their mind.

Phil Juhlin during Team Sweden training camp Photo: Peter Nilsson

Swedish athletes have won seven medals so far in Japan, two golds and five silvers, with one more to come in one of those colors depending on the result of the Women’s Soccer final against Canada. That can only serve as perfect motivation for the Swedish football team, who can guarantee themselves a medal of a similar caliber with the win this weekend.

Team Sweden hasn’t taken home hardware from a European Championship tournament since 2005 when they claimed the gold medal over Germany. Since then it’s been a string of close calls and devastating disappointments, but Juhlin is tired of hearing about the accomplishments of the past.

“As proud as we are over the win in 2005, I think Sweden is a bit tired of talking about it,” he said frankly.  “I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we are ready to be the next team that people will talk about.”

The quarterback is a big part of his nation’s hopes to get back on the European podium and brought them tantalizingly close to a bronze medal at the 2018 European Championships, losing 35-21 to Finland, the same opponent they’ll play Saturday. Juhlin threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns in that game, rushing for another 80 and a score.

He brings a respected domestic resume to the table as well. Now a member of the Tyresö Royal Crowns, Juhlin twice led the Carlstad Crusaders to Swedish championships and posted a 33-1 record over three seasons at the club. That has earned him the trust of Team Sweden head coach BD Kennedy, also of the Crusaders, and he’ll be leaned upon heavily for leadership as the country whips it’s national team into shape in just three days to face their fiercest national rival.

Phil Juhlin throwing against Team Germany, 2014 European Championships

Finland and Sweden have played an almost annual grudge match against each other since 1992, with Finland posting a 17-11 record since then. Having played in his fair share of those contests, Juhlin has a pretty good idea of what to expect.

“Sweden versus Finland seems to always lead to good, physical football and close games. The past few years, Finland has been leading the matchup in wins, but we are looking to turn the tide this year,” he said.

“On offense, we are going to need to simply take exactly what the defence gives us. Finland does not make mistakes, so we are going to need to chip away and play clean, mistake-free football on the offensive side.”

His offense has enough firepower to do far more than just that. Sitting behind a veteran offensive line that has an international reputation for nastiness, Juhlin will be throwing to an extremely talented young receiving corps. When the team beat Russia and Great Britain in qualification before the pandemic, players like Johannes Lindeus, his brother Jesper, Theodore Landstrom, and Edvin Taborda weren’t even on the national team radar. Now, they’ll be difference makers.

Those who know the pressure of international competition, like Juhlin himself, will be in charge of guiding the newcomers. If they acclimatize well, Sweden has the chance to get back to the promised land and add a European medal to their quarterback’s list of accomplishments.

Watch Team Sweden face Team Finland, Saturday, August 7 at 12:30 CET (12:30 pm, 06:30 am ET).

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.