Russia 2018 Watch: Spot-on Swedes see off South Korea
- Credit: Archant
Read our World Cup blog which will be featuring over the coming weeks. Lane Dias reviews match one on day five of the tournament.
After World Cup holders Germany were surprisingly beaten by Mexico yesterday, both Sweden and South Korea were hoping to seize the opportunity and leapfrog the holders in Group F.
Sweden had booked their place in a 12th World Cup finals having got the better of four-time winners Italy in a play-off in a superb ‘Winner Takes it All’ performance that compatriots ABBA would have been proud of.
And they had reached the play-offs courtesy of a second-placed finish in Group A, behind France and above the Netherlands due to a superior goal difference.
As Italian fans ceremoniously cried ‘Mamma Mia’ the Swedes progressed to their first World Cup appearance since 2000 without charismatic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovi? who, despite retiring from international football, has made it to Russia as part of Bein SPORTS’ coverage of the tournament.
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However, they certainly ‘Dared to Zlatan’ with a first victory in their opening match since 1958, against South Korea in Nizhny Novgorod.
The match lacked energy in the early stages but developed after the first half’s best opportunity fell to Marcus Berg, who was terrifically denied from point-blank range by Cho Hyun-woo in the South Korea goal.
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It was the first effort on goal and came exactly after the 20th minute, which according to Opta – was the longest wait for a first attempt in a World Cup match since 1966.
Former Swedish international Henrik Larsson was part of ITV’s punditry team and would’ve gobbled up the chance like a Swedish meatball. Christian Christensen noted on Twitter: “If Henrik Larsson was in there, even at age 49, it would be 2-0 to #Swe right now.”
However, the Swedes eventually got their goal, thanks to VAR.
In the 63rd minute, Viktor Claesson was impeded in the area by substitute Kim Min-woo, and although referee Joel Aguilar initially waved away the appeals, he reviewed the incident on a pitchside monitor, before pointing to the spot.
Captain Andreas Granqvist was the surprise penalty taker, but stepped up to coolly slot home, sending Hyun-woo the wrong way.
The Swedes had a decent record going into the tournament (despite never winning it), having finished as runners-up in 1958, on home soil, and in third place in 1994, the second time they had achieved the feat since 1950.
Sweden’s last campaign in 2006 saw them reach the last 16, where they were defeated 2-0 by then-hosts and their Group F opponents Germany.
Meanwhile, South Korea are appearing at a 10h World Cup, having failed to progress from the group stage in Brazil, following a draw to Russia and defeats to Algeria and Belgium.
Their best-ever result was fourth place in 2002, which they co-staged alongside Japan, which proved to be a controversial tournament filled with alleged refereeing bias in favour of the host nations, as commentator Jon Champion pointed out in commentary for ITV.
In that campaign, they were also defeated by their current group opponents and the eventual runners-up Germany, 1-0.