Emil Forsberg fired Sweden into the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Switzerland on Tuesday.
Emil Forsberg fired Sweden into the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Switzerland on Tuesday.

RB Leipzig playmaker Emil Forsberg, Sweden's shining light


'Forsberg' is a name that evokes happy memories of sporting glory in Sweden. Peter Forsberg, affectionately nicknamed 'Foppa', is the Scandinavian country's ice hockey equivalent of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, an NHL legend who helped bring world championship and Olympic gold to his nation.

Born just a slapshot away from his illustrious namesake in the northern city of Sundsvall, Emil Forsberg will be all too aware of the weighty legacy his surname carries in the nation's collective sporting memory. The RB Leipzig midfielder's stage of choice on which to perform is grass, not ice, but 'mini-Foppa' has his compatriots hoping the pair share more than a name going into their 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-final with England.

There is good reason to be optimistic they do - and not just because Forsberg scored the decisive goal in the last-16 win over Switzerland.

"In Emil Forsberg, we have brought in a young attacking player who is good in front of goal," Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick had said upon snapping up the left-sided forward from Malmö FF in January 2015.

Forsberg has not let his boss down. Only Davie Selke's 10 goals were a superior tally to Forsberg's eight in 2014/15; he contributed six assists to Leipzig's successful promotion from Bundesliga 2 the following season; finished the Saxony club's debut Bundesliga campaign with a league-leading 19 assists - as well as eight goals - and played his part in their debut tilt at European football in 2017/18.

Watch: Emil Forsberg - The Swede's success story from the very beginning!

It was an ability he had already exhibited abundantly in his native country after leaving the comfort zone of his hometown club to move to the south-west and Malmö. "I had always played in Sundsvall, but it was time to challenge myself. I know it will take a lot, but I like to put pressure on myself," Forsberg said after the switch in January 2013 before immediately taking up the task with relish.

He quickly established himself in a side that claimed the Allsvenskan title, but it was the following campaign in which - appropriately enough for a man who hails from a town where winters are rude - everything snowballed.

His league-high 14 goals as part of a Malmö outfit that made a stout and successful defence of its national crown earned him domestic recognition with individual awards and a senior international call-up. With a central role in the UEFA Champions League group stage campaign that followed, Forsberg inevitably caught the eye of suitors scrutinising Ibrahimovic's first club hoping to unearth another Swedish gem.

- © imago / Jan Huebner