Sweden secured their progression into the knockout stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 as they defeated Thailand 5-1 with a calm and collected display.
Thailand put on a brave and proud performance after their harsh 13-0 defeat to the USA last Tuesday and were rewarded with a late goal from Kanjana Sung-Ngoen. Sweden’s overpowering attacking prowess saw goals fly in from Linda Sembrant, Kosovare Asllani, Firdolina Rolfo, Lina Hurtig and Elin Rubensson.
Former Manchester City striker Asllani, now with Linkopings, led the line impressively as the colourful Swedish fans celebrated in the Mediterranean sunshine.
A superbly delivered free-kick earned Sweden the early opening goal. Rubensson’s set-piece ball was whipped in invitingly for Sembrant to leap above everyone else and head into a vacant net.
Rolfo looked almost certain to add to the lead just moments later as she cut in dangerously from the right hand side, beating player after player. The resulting shot veered rapidly towards the top left corner, but swerved away and into the crowd.
Thailand looked to threaten on a few occasions, with Sung-Ngoen showcasing her lightning-quick pace to get into dangerous areas. Miranda Nild then had the Thailand support off their seats as she chopped the ball in behind herself and attempted an audacious long-range curling effort, but it spun over the bar as the American-born international lost her footing.
The Asian contingent of the travelling supporters were in full voice throughout, despite being heavily outnumbered by the Swedes. The sound of their solo drum could be heard non-stop, along with the singular horn and hundreds of voices throughout the game. Every little victory on the pitch warranted a Thai celebration.
Sweden increased their lead 18 minutes into the first half. Waraporn Boonsing initially pulled off a fantastic save from a looping Hurtig header, but it was palmed into the path of Asllani. The number nine flicked the ball through the on-rushing Thai defenders and calmly slotted under the opposition keeper.
After a quiet 15-minute period, Rolfo re-ignited the crowd. The ball bounced around the box after another good save from the fit-again Boonsing. Thailand defenders managed to clear the ball to the edge of the box, but Rolfo strode in, took a touch and unleashed a fierce powered effort through the shot-stopper’s hands.
The second half was a much tighter affair with Thailand fighting even harder than before, backed by their wondrous travelling support. Sung-Ngoen looked to break through the high Swedish line yet again early on, but found that no teammates had joined in with her sprint – making it difficult to create any chances.
Hurtig added her name to the scoresheet with less than 10 minutes remaining. The Sweden forward dominated her defender in the air and thundered in a powered header past Boonsing.
But then came Thailand’s big moment as Sung-Ngoen ran through on the inside-right channel and smacked in a shot at the near post past former Chelsea goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. There was still time for Rubensson to convert a penalty after a handball as Sweden sealed their 5-1 win.
By Jake Dance (@FootyJournoJake) – University of Derby Football Journalism student