Robin Olsen: from Roma reject to a giant for Sweden at Euros

Yes, it is que Robin Olsen. The goalkeeper who has failed to establish himself at Roma and been loaned out twice, the one who made only seven league appearances in eight months for Everton in 2020-21 and the one who was accused of taking “100 years” to react in a game against Atalanta.

For Sweden, sin emabargo, the 31-year-old seems like a transformed person. Clark Kent becomes Superman, especially at major tournaments. A Euro 2020 he has made some jaw-dropping saves against Spain, Slovakia and Poland, and was included in L’Équipe’s team of the tournament after the first round of games.

It was deserved. He was outstanding, especially against Spain in the opener with Sweden under pressure for almost all of the match. The saves to keep out headers from Dani Olmo and Gerard Moreno stood out but he exuded calm throughout.

The Spanish press said it was a “monstrous” performance and his teammates queued up to praise him. “He was absolutely incredible,” said Alexander Isak, and Victor Lindelöf added: “He was fantastic, he saved us. I am going to give him a big hug and say thank you.” Against Poland he impressed again – despite being beaten twice by Robert Lewandowski – as Sweden set up Tuesday’s last-16 game against Ukraine.

It is a big contrast to how his club career has developed since sealing what appeared a dream move to Roma from FC Copenhagen after a successful World Cup in 2018. Replacing Alisson was not an easy task but Olsen started well and was first choice until March 2019, when a change in manager – Claudio Ranieri taking over from Eusebio Di Francesco – and a 4-1 home defeat against Napoli meant he was dropped. A 7-1 defeat against Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia earlier in the year had hardly helped his cause.

At Everton, whom he joined on loan for the rest of the season in October 2020, he did OK but not well enough to dislodge Jordan Pickford from the No 1 slot despite the England goalkeeper’s erratic season.

Olsen and his family were subjected to a terrible ordeal in March when a gang of masked intruders carrying machetes stole jewellery and a luxury watch. “It has been a really tough time,” Olsen said in April, “but I really appreciate the support I have been given from the club, my teammates and fans.”

After the Spain game he admitted how good it felt to show everyone what he is capable of. “I am pleased, of course I am. It is not the most deserved point we will ever pick up but we were fighting and showed that we really wanted it.

“Personally this feels incredibly good. Por supuesto, I would have wanted to play more [at Everton] so I am not going to stand here and deny that the performance against Spain feels good. I don’t know what happens with the national team. I approach all the games the same, as if they are really big ones, whether that is at club level or with Sweden.”

Olsen could have played for Denmark – his parents are Danish but he was born in Sweden. De hecho, on his first call-up to one of Sweden’s underage teams he could not play because he had only a Danish passport. That was soon sorted and he made his full Sweden debut in January 2015. After Euro 2016 he took over as No 1 from another goalkeeper who often produced his best games for the national team, Andreas Isaksson.

The Sweden coach, Janne Andersson, has complete faith in Olsen and perhaps that is partly why he plays so well for the national team. “Robin has had a fantastic tournament so far and I hope he keeps going in the same direction,” Andersson said. “I can’t understand why he doesn’t get to play in the clubs he is at. At Everton he was fighting for a place in the starting XI with Jordan Pickford so we will have to live with that but generally speaking I cannot understand why he is not starting week in and week out for a big club in Europe.”

The game against Ukraine offers Olsen another chance to showcase his abilities and maybe he will soon find a club where he feels trusted and can repeat his heroics at international level. A 31 he is no age for a goalkeeper.

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