New England Soccer Today

Sweden Win, but Wanted More

Jessica Landstrom only had to poke in an inch-perfect pass from Lotta Schelin to give Sweden a 1-0 victory over Colombia in the opening match of Group C play in Leverkusen.  But Sweden, who outclassed Colombia for nearly the entire match, needed more than one goal to open their World Cup slate.

While the U.S and North Korea open up their World Cup campaigns against each other, Sweden had the benefit of playing debutants Colombia.  And though Sweden played crisp one and two-touch soccer for most of the match, they were unable to capitalize on their many chances.

As expected, the Swedes took hold of the game’s tempo early and put Colombia, the second youngest team competing at the World Cup, on the back foot.  Sweden’s ability to possess the ball, coupled with their advantage in size and experience over the Colombians, kept the South Americans penned-in on their side of the field.

Meanwhile Colombia’s best player, Yoreli Rincon, was forced to help her team defend and shoot from distance.  Rincon’s style of play is comparable to that of Brazil’s Marta, with tricky footwork and short touches on the ball.  And with Rincon out of the picture, the Colombian attack was silent.

But even without pressure from Colombia in midfield, the Swedes could only finish one of their chances.

Landstrom and Schelin were Sweden’s most potent offensive weapons, but both squandered chances that should have been easy put-aways.  Sweden’s goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl sent a long ball into Colombia’s end in the 3rd minute that Schelin slid onto and put past Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda; the slow rolling-shot was then cleared off the goal-line at the last second by Natalia Gaitan.

Moments later, Schelin went one against one with Sepulvada, her shot deflecting off the keeper and heading into the back of the net.  But again, Schelin had her bid cleared off the line.  In the 12th minute, Schelin drew out Sepulvada and laid the ball off to Landstrom who shot high on the open net.

Colombia was fortunate to get out of the first half unscathed but started the second half on the defensive again.  Schelin missed again on another breakaway, slotting a shot wide of the far post before finally setting up Landstrom for the decisive play.  In the 57th minute, Schelin regained possession on the wing after Colombia failed to clear away the remnants of a Swedish attack.  Schelin sprinted toward the endline before squaring the ball to Landstrom, who put the chance away for her eighth international goal.

Though Sweden managed to defeat Colombia, the biggest concern in the aftermath of the match was their inability to finish.  Sweden did not make it out of the group at the last World Cup, also because they didn’t finish their chances and left their fate to be decided by goal differential.

The Swedes play North Korea next and will take on the U.S in their final match of group play.

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