Sweden marked their return to the World Cup with a win as they narrowly beat South Korea 1-0 at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Monday afternoon.
The match was an evenly contested affair for large parts of the first half, although chances came few and far between. But, Sweden ended entered half-time the better of the two sides, having enjoyed the better chances at goal, with Cho Hyun-woo standing firmly between the Scandinavians and the goal.
The Blagult continued from they had left off in the first half, dominating the possession and creating the bulk of the chances. Sweden finally got their break midway through the second half when VAR came to their rescue, overruling referee Joel Aguilar’s original decision for a challenge on Viktor Claesson by Yong-Joon Lee inside the South Korea box.
Captain Andreas Granqvist took the penalty and made no mistake in converting from the spot as Sweden held on to their slender advantage to grab all three points. But, who are the three players who impressed the most on Monday? The Hard Tackle takes a closer look.
A surprise name on the team sheet with Victor Lindelof being unavailable due to illness. In fact, Jansson was only informed earlier on Monday morning that he would be starting against South Korea, which makes his performance all the more admirable.
What was especially impressive about Jansson’s outing was how well he dealt with the threat of Son Heung-min, neutralising the threat carried by his pace superbly. The Leeds United defender also negated Kim Shin-wook completely, with the striker’s strength a non-factor.
But, his most important contribution of the day came in the dying moments of the match as a last-ditch tackle on Hwang Hee-chan stopped what could have been a clear-cut scoring opportunity for the Taegeuk Warriors. A strong performance that renders Lindelof’s position going forward in doubt.
With Sweden in the ascendancy post the midway stage of the first half, it was largely down to Cho Hyun-woo that South Korea remained in the game. The goalkeeper’s positioning was perfect for the most part, which meant that he only had to make a number of regulation saves for large parts of the match.
But, Cho also produced two fantastic saves in each half that piled on the frustration for Sweden even as they continued dominating the game. The first was from Marcus Berg, who denied from point-blank range as he reacted quickly to stop the Sweden striker.
After Berg, it was the turn of his strike partner Ola Toivonen, whose strong header was stopped rather easily due to Cho’s smart positioning. But, the 26-year-old couldn’t do anything about the penalty, having dived the wrong way, although he can hold his head up high after a brave performance.
Last, but certainly not the least is Sweden’s match winner. Captain Andreas Granqvist led from the front on Monday, keeping his backline disciplined and organised to deny the South Korean attack even an inch of space.
The veteran defender himself led the way with a couple of fine blocks as South Korea threatened early on. Once Sweden started dominating though, Granqvist just had to keep his defensive line alert at all times in order to sniff out the rare danger. Most importantly, however, it was his goal that made the difference on the day.
As VAR intervened to award Sweden the penalty, up stepped the captain to take the responsibility to score from the spot, and he made no difference as he coolly slotted his shot into the bottom right corner, scoring the first goal for his side in 402 minutes as Janne Andersson’s men started their campaign with all three points..