Sweden faced a strong South Korea side at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. The Blue-Yellow were favourites to win in this match, but their opposition, managed by Shin Tae-Yong were certainly not a side they should underestimate.
South Korea have made headlines in their preparation before their first World Cup match against Sweden in Group F as manager Shin Tae-Yong commanded his players to swap shirts in their training to confuse their oppositions’ scouts.
While Sweden, who have excellent records in the history of World Cup as they are unbeaten in their last nine group games at the World Cup are expected to do well in this one too.
The first 20 minutes of the match were pretty dull as players from both teams failed to really make any meaningful chances for their respective sides.
A golden chance came for Sweden in the 21st minute of the game. Sweden were attacking with purpose, the ball was brought in to the final third but the South Koreans failed to clear their lines and an accurate through ball found Marcus Berg in a one-on-one situation with only the goalkeeper to beat but the big striker struck the ball straight at the goalkeeper who blocked it with his feet before punching ball clear. What a horrible miss by a striker of international standard like Berg but it was certainly an amazing save by goalkeeper Cho Hyun-Woo though.
South Korea managed to get a chance for themselves in the 36th minute as Shin Tae-Yong’s side launched a counter-attack. Son Heung-Min had too much pace for his marker as he burst down the right wing freely, but Granqvist was quick to intercept as Son tried to deliver a cut back to find his teammate inside the box.
Sweden got another chance just before the break as Larsson headed the ball wide to the right from an excellent cross.
The first half ended with the score of nil for both sides.
A dangerous chance came from South Korea in the 52nd minute as a cross from the left found Koo Ja-Cheol but the FC Augsburg man could only direct his header into the side netting.
Marcus Berg demonstrated his quality again in this match as he managed to connect with a free-kick from the left with a strong header towards the near post, but South Korean goalkeeper Cho was once again there to prevent the goal, the ball was then cleared by the defender.
A breakthrough in the game finally came in favour of Sweden in the 65th minute as Victor Claesson was brought down inside the box. The referee was hesitant, but he decided to give the penalty to Sweden after reviewing the VAR footage. 33-year-old Sweden captain and centre-back Andreas Granqvist was trusted as the penalty taker and he duly delivered, calmly slotting the ball home to the bottom right corner, the keeper went the other way.
The score stayed until the final whistle despite South Korea’s efforts to equalise and secure at least a point late in the game. Vital win for Janne Andersson’s side.
Sweden went with a more attacking mentality compared to their opposition. They were looking to press the defence and score a goal right after the kickoff to get an early lead but South Korea were able to take care of the threats.
The South Korean side, currently managed by Shin Tae-Yong, weren’t really able to get a grip of the game and the ball though as their opposition kept on winning tackles and duels in midfield.
South Korea looked to be more comfortable playing the ball in the wider areas rather than through the centre of the field with winger Hwang Hee-Chan and Son Heung-Min responsible to pose some threat towards their opposition defence. Their main striker though, Kim Shin-Wook was truly disappointing, he didn’t look lively at all, even invisible I might say, didn’t really contribute with the build-up and he definitely deserved to be substituted in the 66th minute.
The key player who is expected to make a difference for South Korea, Son Heung-Min was not given any space by the Sweden defence, especially right-back Mikael Lustig who perhaps have been given the task to mark him and deal with his threat.
South Korea were relying on counter-attacks in the first half as they have to defend from the deep against a pretty aggressive Sweden side. They then switch to a more attacking football in search of a goal late in the second half after conceding from the spot.
On the other side, Sweden have always had the upper-hand in both halves, dominating the possession and creating a lot of chances for their side but Janne Andersson’s side were a little bit unfortunate perhaps that they were unable to find a breakthrough in the first half.
More of the same was probably the team talk given by the Sweden coach as they continue the second half with a more aggressive manner. They looked very comfortable in keeping the ball in the opposition’s half, passing the ball around, but when it comes to end product, they still couldn’t deliver.
Their determination finally paid off in the 65th minute as they were awarded a penalty after midfielder Victor Claesson was brought down inside the box.
They managed to keep their defence solid too until the final whistle blow.
Man of the Match: Andreas Granqvist
The 33-year-old centre-back was brilliant in this match. The Sweden captain was winning all the aerial duels and tackles for his team, able to read the game and intercept passes to stop the opposition from advancing, and also acting as an extra frontman and posing a threat up front. He also scored the penalty which proved to be the winning goal for his team as they secure vital three points at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
Victor Claesson and Ola Toivonen also impressed in this match as both were the source of menace for their oppositions and the former also managed to win a penalty for his side.
Ki Sung-Yong was probably South Korea’s best player in this match, but despite all his efforts in midfield he was unable to help his team secure a point.
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