Sweden’s advance to the SF in Dmitrov has been powered by strong defence – and backstopped by the impressive Anna Amholt in goal. We met the Lulea prospect.
Sweden’s goalie Anna Amholt has been a huge factor in her team’s progress to the semi-final. A heroic display against the Americans in the opening game saw her making more than 50 saves to take the game to overtime. Then she shut out the Russians, quieting down a fervent home crowd to give the Swedes a bye to the last four for the first time in the history of this tournament.
The 17-year-old is playing in her second Women’s U18 World Championship, having debuted last year in the Czech Republic, and is breaking into the senior set-up at her club, Lulea. And her success in this year’s tournament is – at least partly – built on the experience she had 12 months ago.
“I know much more than I did last year,” she said. “The experience has really helped me. Maybe I’m a bit better prepared, and I’m in a better routine. Certainly, I have a better idea of what I’m going to face and how other teams play.”
Those better routines have also played a part in coping with the intense pressure Sweden faced in its group phase games. “Of course it’s tiring when we take so many shots, but I’m used to that,” Amholt added. “I just need to reload properly, make sure I eat the right things and get plenty of sleep.”
Amholt’s contribution has also won praise from team Sweden’s coach, Ylva Martinsen, who sees the goalie as crucial to the team’s medal prospects. “I’m really happy with her,” she said. “Anna’s playing so well.
“We really need that if we are going to compete for a medal here. All the games are really tight, so a strong defence is vital for us. So far I’m very pleased, but it’s a long tournament and we still have more to do.”
Amholt’s success is also down to a good relationship on defence. The team has gelled as a unit, and the evidence of the game against Russia showed a rock-solid back line, capable of squeezing opposing forwards out of the danger zone even when short-handed.
“We didn’t have all that much time together, so we’re still building that chemistry,” Amholt suggested. “But the most important thing on this team is trust. Everybody trusts each other to do her job.”
When the championship is over – and hopefully with a medal stashed in her luggage – Amholt will return to Lulea to try to help her team lift the Swedish women’s championship. After that, though, things are less clear.
“This is my last year at u18 level, so I need to try to get into the senior national set-up,” she said. “I don’t know if there are many opportunities to do that for women players in Sweden. We have our national championship, where I play now for my club, and of course there is the senior national program. But maybe I’ll look abroad if I get the opportunity to develop further there.”
After such an eye-catching international campaign, it’s not hard to imagine that Amholt’s services will be in demand in the future.