Sweden booked their place in the Women’s World Cup round of 16 following a comfortable 5-1 win over Thailand.
Peter Gerhardsson’s side began on the front foot and never looked in danger as they bolstered their goals column.
Linda Sembrant, Kosovare Asllani, Fridolina Rolfö, Lina Hurtig and Elin Rubensson all got on the scoresheet to maintain Sweden’s perfect start with Kanjana Sung-Ngoen pulling one back. Thailand, who suffered a humiliating 13-0 defeat to United States earlier in the week, can take solace it wasn’t a repeat and the fact they had a goal to celebrate.
As both sides move on to prepare for their next challenge here are five things we learned from this first time meeting.
1. Fastest championship goal
It took 12 minutes for the United States to go in front against Thailand, a game that ended with 13 goals flying past the hapless Sukanya Chor Charoenying, this wouldn’t be the case here today. Sweden, up for it from the get-go, immediately pegged their opponents back and with six minutes on the clock Linda Sembrant headed in an Elin Rubensson free-kick to break the deadlock.
The goal, recorded after five minutes and 24 seconds, goes down as the fastest scored at this summer’s tournament so far. It beat Eugenie Le Sommer’s ninth minute effort for France against South Korea in the championship opener.
2. Shades of ’91
Sweden are no mugs at this level so it’s surprising to learn they haven’t always been this ruthless especially in the opening 45 minutes. Of course, a lot depends on the opposition, as proud Thailand are they haven’t exactly been the most difficult to break down. No matter the words uttered following their humbling defeat to United States it was a psychological blow, you don’t just brush that off, or improve the gap in quality with the big teams in such a short period of time. Sweden, smelling blood, went into a feeding frenzy.
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) June 16, 2019
A half-time lead of 3-0, equalling the biggest margin of this summer’s championship alongside USA v Thailand, was something this European giant hasn’t achieved since the inaugural tournament. They were 6-0 in front against Japan in the group phase of China 1991 eventually winning 8-0, before going into the break 4-0 up against Germany in the bronze medal game, they wouldn’t trouble the scorers in the second half. Same couldn’t be said today.
3. 100% after opening two matches
Sweden have now reached seven of the previous eight knockout stages at the WWC – their only blip was failing to get out of the group phase at the 2007 edition. Their best effort remains a runner-up finish in 2003 when Germany profited from a golden goal. By winning their opening two games – 2-0 v Chile and 2-0 against Thailand – they’ve equalled a feat managed once before.
Their last 100% start after two matches came in 2011 when they defeated Colombia (1-0) and North Korea (1-0). Interestingly, back then, Sweden completed a clean sweep. And it just so happened, next week’s opponents United States were victim number three, a closely fought game which saw Sweden run out narrow 2-1 winners en route to a third-place finish. If they manage to inflict defeat on Jill Ellis’ side in their forthcoming meeting then all bets are off.
4. Another unwanted record
Six teams came into this summer’s World Cup finals ranked below Thailand, including Group F rivals Chile, but it’s fair to say they’ve been the centre of unwanted attention following their historic 13-0 mauling at the hands of defending champions United States.
If the Asian outfit thought Sweden would be a different proposition they were in for a rude awakening. Blågult, a traditional powerhouse of the women’s game, inflicted a seventh consecutive defeat on Nuengrutai Srathongvian’s team whilst their 18 goals is the most conceded by a side after their opening two WWC games, surpassing the 16 that newcomers Ecuador shipped in four years ago.
5. Asllani arrives
So much was expected of Kosovare Asllani in Canada four years ago, but she and Sweden flattered to deceive. From an individual standpoint the former Paris Saint-Germain star ended with zero contributions across three appearances. Now, as one of the more experienced members of this Swedish team, Asllani – who in the past been favourably compared to Zlatan Ibrahimović, due to a shared Balkan heritage – has been afforded greater freedom and by embracing this newfound responsibility she’s turning into the complete player.
The 29-year-old forward bagged Sweden’s first goal of the tournament before turning provider for Madelen Janogy against Chile, a solo effort in today’s win saw her become just one of three Swedish players – joining Lena Videkull (1991) and Victoria Sandell Svensson (2003) – to score in their opening two games. It also means in two outings she’s been more directly involved (three goals: scored twice and one assist) than in the aforementioned Canadian-held tournament.