The western Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod was the home of Sweden’s first game in the 2018 World Cup last Monday, June 18th. After the media circus surrounding the participation of Swedish footballing icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic, we could finally start seeing some actual football. South Korea would be the first opponents, and this was the game where Sweden was expected to bring all the three points home, before meeting the Germans on Midsummers Day.
Sweden’s starting line-up did not contain any major surprises, apart from their star center-back, Victor Lindelöf, remaining in the hotel due to illness and finding himself replaced by Leeds’ Pontus Jansson. Something that also didn’t contain any major surprises was the way the match was played.
South Korea, a team with a lot of pace, played with a low defensive line, looking to exploit any opportunity in the counter. Sweden were pressing forward for most of the game, looking to get those three points which would have alleviated some pressure going against Germany – especially after the Mexicans had raided them.
Despite having an aerial advantage against the Koreans, the Swedes were not clinical enough, especially when they were trying to find Marcus Berg – who missed a major chance in the first half, and made us all wonder what would have happened if we had a forward there instead – somebody who had played in teams like Barcelona, Juventus, or Inter.
However, in typically Swedish fashion, through tireless team spirit, direct play and constant crosses into the box, the Swedes managed to grind out a penalty. Even though it was a clear penalty, it was awarded retroactively via the slightly controversial VAR system. Nevertheless, captain Andreas Granqvist stepped up and placed it with much cool in the bottom corner. A 1-0 victory with a penalty taken by the center-back: Swedish football in a nutshell.
The match waiting on Saturday will be slightly different. The Germans, and might I add, the reigning champions, will be hungry to show the world that the slip up against Mexico was a temporary affair. Expect the Germans to play with high-press and quick passing, looking to find gaps between Sweden’s comparatively slow center-backs.
Perhaps it is time for Jimmy Durmaz to get a start in the wings with his quick feet and creativity – something that is needed to put the high-pressing Germans on the back foot. Also, maybe a time for John Guidetti to get a shot as number 9?
June 18, 2018 – World Cup Group Stage Pool E
SWEDEN-SOUTH KOREA 1-0
SCORER: 65′ Granqvist (pen.)
|SWEDEN (4-4-2): Olsen; Lustig, Granqvist, Jansson, Augustinsson; Claesson, Larsson (81’ Svensson), Ekdal (71’ Hiljemark), Forsberg; Berg, Toivonen (76’ Thelin) (Johnsson, Nordfeldt, Olsson, Guidetti, Helander, Krafth, Rohden, Durmaz) Coach: Andersson|
|SOUTH KOREA (4-4-2): Cho Hyeong-Woo, Lee Yong, Kim Young-Gwon, Jang Hyun-Soo, Park Joo-Ho (28’ Kim Min-Woo); Lee Jae-Sung (72’ Lee Seung-Woo), Ki Sung-Yueng, Koo Ja-Cheol; Hwang Hee-Chan, Kim Shin-Wook (67’ Jung Woo-Yung), Son Heung-Min. (Kim Seung-Gyu, Kim Jin-Hyeon, Jeong Seung-Hyun, Oh Ban-Suk, Yun Young-Sun, Ju Se-Jong, Hong Chul, Moon Seon-Min, Go Yo-han) Coach: Shin Tae-Yong|
REFEREE: Aguilar (El Salvador)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Claesson (S), Kim Shin-Wook, Hwang Hee-Chan (C)
Click below to relive some other matches in Group E: