Caroline Seger Poised To Become Most Capped European Player Of All Time
On Thursday in Kalmar, Swedish captain, Caroline Seger will make her 214th international appearance equaling the record set by her former team-mate Therese Sjögran. It will also make her the joint-most capped European player in history, a mark she could move past next Tuesday if she plays in both of upcoming Sweden’s matches.
Currently the leading European male international player is Spain’s Sergio Ramos who has won 180 international caps. Seger is one of 17 European women who have made more international appearances than Ramos. Should she play against Norway on Thursday, she will draw level with Sjögran and German striker Birgit Prinz. Play again against Australia the following Tuesday and Seger will move out alone as the leading European of all time.
Now 36, Seger first played for the Swedish National Team 10 days before her 20th birthday at the 2005 Algarve Cup. Sixteen years later she has represented her country at four FIFA Women’s World Cups and four UEFA Women’s Euros and is about to become a four-time Olympian in Tokyo this summer.
Up until the end of her international career in 2015, Sjögran played alongside Seger in the Swedish team. Seger is keen to point out how talented a player Sjögran was. “She was a fantastic soccer player, very technical and we had a lot of fun moments together, both on and off the field. I have the fortune to have her as my best friend today. She’s the closest one I have and I’m soon breaking her record – and that feels great!”
MORE FOR YOU
Now, Sjögran is the Sporting Director at Seger’s Swedish club side, FC Rosengård and cannot escape the fact that her former protégé is about to take her all-time national record. “I see her every day”, Seger tells me. “She’s always there. She never says anything about the record. She only gets a lot of questions about it and I’m reminding her also every day. She’s not that type of person who cares about it as much as myself!”
At the end of the last FIFA Women’s World Cup in July 2019, Seger became only the 20th soccer player in history to make 200 international appearances. However, the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the international soccer calendar has delayed Seger’s record-breaking day for over a year. “It’s been something that people have been reminding me about when I played my 200th cap. It’s been an ongoing discussion since 2019. After the coronavirus breakout, it has taken another year for me to break the record. Now, I’m finally here, I’m two games away. I’m looking forward to it but I think it’s hard for me to understand what my achievement is until I end my career.”
Over the course of her 16-year international career, Seger has frequently featured at the sharp end of major tournaments, playing in five semi-finals, winning Bronze medals at two World Cups in 2011 and 2019 and Olympic Silver at Rio 2016, losing to Germany in her only major championship final to date.
A Gold has eluded Sweden since they won the inaugural Women’s European Championship in 1984. Seger reveals to me that she believes, due to a change in playing style, Sweden were closest to glory in 2019 when they eventually finished third. “I think we were the closest in the last World Cup. I think we played our best football ever. We were so close to reaching the final. Unfortunately we didn’t, but we came home to Sweden with a Bronze and it was a very big achievement for us since we’re a very small country. It was a tournament where all the teams were very good. We also finally won against Germany (in the quarter-final). I think that’s the tournament I will remember for a long time because it was a very good atmosphere and overall a great tournament.”
Seger also picks out a game from that World Cup as her favorite from her 213 international matches to date. “I would say the Bronze Medal match against England. We came back from losing against the Netherlands in the semi-final. We had to travel. We went to overtime against them and then the way we turned the entire thing around and won against England. It was such a great game. Also, for us to come back with the Bronze medal after losing that semi-final, it showed what a great team we are.”
Of the many opponents she has faced over the years, Seger is unequivocal about the toughest, singling out someone she played alongside during her time at another Swedish club side, Tyresö FF. “Marta, for sure”, she tells me. “I have been lucky enough to both play with her but also against her so I know how good she is. It was always very hard to defend against her. That’s my overall best player I ever played against or with.”
At the Tokyo Olympics, Sweden will once more come up against the United States, a team they have encountered at the group stage of every FIFA Women’s World Cup Seger has played in and the team Sweden defeated on penalties at the quarter-final stage in the last Games in Belo Horizonte. In April, Sweden ended Vlatko Andonvoski’s perfect 16-game winning start as United States head coach, coming within three minutes of defeating the world champions in Stockholm but Seger will not be reading too much into that game. “They are always tough games against the United States, they have this way of always showing up, and also, always coming back even if they are down a goal or two. It’s always a tough opponent. I know they will be even stronger in the Olympics because that was just a preparation match. I’m expecting a different game when we are in the Olympics. It’s going to be fun, but also hard. It was nice to see we have developed more, and were maybe closer than we have ever been to winning against the United States.”
Seger’s current contract at Rosengård will see her through until 2022, one year short of her making a fifth World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand in 2023. Having played professionally in the United States, with Philadelphia Independence and Western New York Flash, and France, for both Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain, Seger would be willing to move abroad once more but admits offers may not be forthcoming. “I think if the right offer will come to me, I will for sure consider it. So we will see if someone will be interested in a 36-year-old player!”
With the end of her career beckoning, Seger is convinced she will continue working in the game but maybe not from the touchline. “I think I always said I will never be a coach. I don’t know if I am so into that life. It’s the same as a football player, only harder I would say. I would love to stay in the game. Obviously with my experience, with my knowledge throughout all these years, it would be a waste if I didn’t use it in football. We will see what role that would be in. I’m excited for the future, so we will see”.