FIFA 2023: Five-star Sweden book World Cup last 16 berth

Sweden’s Amanda Ilestedt heads the ball against Italy during their FIFA World Cup group game in Wellington. Photo: Photosport

Sweden have found a silver bullet in their threat from set pieces, as they thrashed Italy 5-0 in Wellington to book their spot in the Women’s World Cup knockout stage.

Amanda Ilestedt got up well to head home Jonna Andersson’s corner in the 39th minute and produced a carbon copy of that effort for her second goal of the match in the 50th.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time already but we’ve allocated perhaps a little more time on set pieces,” Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson told reporters.

“Opponents will know and feel that this is something we do well in Sweden… It’s an excellent weapon as we move forward.”

It was the second time this tournament that Sweden benefited from their set piece prowess. Ilestedt scored the winner in the 2-1 victory over South Africa in the 90th minute when she met Kosovare Asllani’s corner with a strong header.

“Regardless of what you might think of Sweden’s type of play, you can always look at the details in the game,” Gerhardsson said. “(Set pieces are) a structural component where you can do a great deal.”

The 2003 runners-up are hoping to go all the way after having knocked on the door of World Cup glory a handful of times before. They finished third in 1991, 2011 and at the previous edition in 2019.

Gerhardsson said his players showed their strength on Saturday as they overcame early frustrations in the match.

“It’s very difficult when you’re faced with an opponent like Italy,” he said. “We figured it out eventually and we got more speed into our play and in the transitions we were able to keep the ball.”

Sweden finish Group G against Argentina in Hamilton on Wednesday.

France stun Brazil late

Captain Wendy Renard’s header seven minutes from time earned France a dramatic 2-1 win over Brazil at Brisbane’s Lang Park as Herve Renard’s side picked up their first win in Group F.

The defender met Selma Bacha’s corner with a firm downward header that bounced back up off the turf and beyond goalkeeper Leticia to give the French all three points after opening their campaign with a 0-0 draw against Jamaica last Sunday.

France move onto four points from their first two games, one point ahead of a Brazilian side who had kicked off the tournament with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Panama.

Eugenie Le Sommer, France’s all-time leading scorer, gave her side the perfect start in the 17th minute, moments after seeing Leticia keep out her first effort at full stretch.

But there was little the Brazilian goalkeeper could do about Le Sommer’s opener as she steered her header in after Sakina Karchaoui’s arcing ball from deep on the left was headed back across goal by Kadidiatou Diani.

The Brazilians squandered the opportunity to level midway through the first half when Adriana shot wildly off target having set her sights on the top corner following Debinha’s layoff.

It took until the 58th minute for Pia Sundhage’s side to equalise, with Debinha pouncing to calmly slot beyond Pauline Peyraud-Magnin after Kerolin’s initial attempt was deflected into the striker’s path by Le Sommer.

But with seven minutes remaining, France’s increased pressure paid off when Renard thumped her header into the Lang Park turf and the ball bounced beyond Leticia to earn her team a much-needed victory.

Jamaica knock out Panama

Jamaica defender Allyson Swaby scored from a sharp header to steer her side to a 1-0 win against Panama in Perth, keeping alive the Caribbean side’s hopes of advancing to the last 16.

Panama, who have yet to open their account having lost earlier to Brazil 4-0, cannot now progress ahead of France and Jamaica who lead Group F with four points.

“I think there was some wastefulness in front of goal. I didn’t think we were clinical,” winning coach Lorne Donaldson told a press conference.

“But we got the one that counted and that’s all that matters right now.”

In a scoreless first half, Jamaica dominated in attack and kept Panama goalkeeper Yenith Bailey busy, peppering the goal without success.

On the stroke of halftime, a huge chance went begging when Bailey stretched to get a fingertip to midfielder Drew Spence’s free kick to keep the islanders frustrated.

Panama, competing in their first World Cup, played with renewed vigour in the 10 minutes following the break and forward Lineth Cedeno misdirected a header that would have been her country’s first goal in the showpiece event.

Jamaica absorbed the pressure though and in the 56th minute Trudi Carter fired in a low corner kick to Swaby – captaining the side after Khadija Shaw was red-carded during their 0-0 draw with France – who scored.

The ‘Reggae Girlz’ protected their lead for the remainder of the game and, despite a few nervy moments in stoppage time, held on to celebrate their first World Cup victory.

Panama’s final match comes against France in Sydney on Wednesday when Jamaica will face Brazil in Melbourne.

“Panama has a future. This is the first of many World Cups, this is what we have to think,” losing coach Ignacio Quintana told reporters.

Source: RNZ