Who Is Ostersund? Profiling PAOK's Europa League Opponents
PAOK may have been happy having to come up against relatively unknown Ostersund for the chance to play in the Europa League Group Stage. But, as George Tsitsonis reports, the Swedish side cannot be overlooked as they are making a name for themselves as giant-killers.
Ostersund’s participation in the Europa League qualifiers represents another impressive milestone for a club barely 20 years old. The club from central Sweden are in the midst of the best period in their short history.
Not only have they managed to climb to Sweden’s top division, the Allsvenskan, which they first participated in last season, but they managed to claim their first major trophy by winning the Swedish Cup last season.
Their rise has come about thanks in large part to English manager Graham Potter, who came to the club in 2011 and has overseen Ostersund’s rise from the fourth tier of Swedish football to their current place amongst the domestic elite today.
Their first European campaign this summer was supposed to be a short one having been drawn against Turkish giants Galatasaray. Despite the massive odds though, Ostersund pulled off perhaps the shock of the qualifiers for both the Champions’ League and Europa League by defeating the Turks 3-1 on aggregate. Another victory over Luxembourg club Fola Esch has seen them come to the brink of the Group Stage with only PAOK in their way.
Stadium: Jamtkraft Arena (Capacity: 8,466)
Titles: 1 Swedish Cup
Manager: Graham Potter
The 42-year-old English coach has performed wonders in his six years at Ostersund. He took over the side when they were in the 4th division and led them to two consecutive promotions. In the second tier, Potter and Ostersund fought for three seasons before clinching promotion to the top flight. Things have only got better since then and the wonder is whether Potter will soon move to a bigger side considering his achievements. Ostersund represents Potter’s first coaching job. He had a lengthy playing career which saw him play for the likes of Birmingham City, Stoke, Southampton, and West Bromwich Albion amongst others.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
This is a side whose whole is certainly better than the sum of its parts. However, there are some good players to keep an eye on for PAOK. Saman Ghoddos is a Swedish international who provides the team’s biggest goal threat. The 23-year-old earned his first international cap this year and has 11 league goals in 21 matches this season.
PAOK will also come against a familiar face in Sotirios Papagiannopoulos. The 6’3 center-back spent half a season at Toumba in 2015. Things didn’t work for him in Thessaloniki, however for Ostersund he is a mainstay at the back having made nearly 50 appearances for the club in the last two seasons. In the midfield, Englishman Jamie Hopcutt and Iraqi Brwa Nouri complement each other well.
LAST SEASON RECAP
In their first season in the Swedish top-flight, Ostersund made quite the splash. They finished a respectable 8th place in the Allsvenskan, but of greater importance was the club’s first major title as they won the Swedish Cup by defeating IFK Norrkoping in the final 4-1. It was a magnificent season which allowed the club it’s first crack at European competition.
THIS YEAR IN EUROPE
In their first ever European matches, Ostersund have made quite the splash. They came through a 2nd Qualifying Round tie against might Galatasaray 3-1 on aggregate. The Swedes won the first leg 2-0 and managed to pick up a 1-1 draw in Turkey.
That shock defeat of Galatasaray saw them drawn against Fola Esch of Luxembourg. Ostersund won both legs, 1-0 and 2-1 respectively, and advanced to the Playoffs.
PRIOR HISTORY VERSUS GREEK TEAMS
The matches against PAOK will be Ostersund’s first against Greek opposition.