June 28, 2011

Sweden 1, Colombia 0

Sweden opened their quest for the 2011 World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Colombia in Group C action on Tuesday. It was convincing performance by the Swedes on the field, if not on the scoreboard.

Sweden had multiple scoring opportunities in the opening minutes against the young Colombian team. Lotta Schelin got in on the keeper in the 3rd minute and slid the ball by Sandra Sepulveda, but Natalia Gaitan was there to clear it off the line for Colombia. In the 10th minute, Sepulveda did get a good piece of Schelin's shot from 12 yards, but the ball rolled behind her only to be saved and cleared by the combination of Gaitan and Andrea Peralta.

Perhaps the best opportunity came two minutes later as Lotta Schelin was able to touch the ball across to Jessica Landstrom just outside the six yard box. Landstrom promptly skied the ball over the net, for what should have been a sure goal. Colombia had managed to survive the opening onslaught by the Swedes with the game still tied.

Then the game seemed to settle in for a bit. Midfielder Caroline Seger earned a yellow card in the 29th minute. Sweden was clearly the bigger and far more physical side, outfouling Colombia by a 17-4 margin for the match.

Sweden had one more good opportunity in the 35th minute as Landstrom nearly sent Schelin through on goal, but Sepulveda anticipated nicely and came out to clear before the Swedish striker could get to it.

The second half started much the same, with Sweden again missing a golden opportunity. Schelin was able to touch the ball around Sepulveda at the 18, but her shot from the left side of the penalty area rolled just wide of the right post. A few minutes later, Landstrom tried to chip Sepulveda, but the ball went well over the net.

Finally, in the 57th minute, Schelin was able to make a run from the right side, drive to the end line and cross to Landstrom, who this time slid the ball low and into the net to give Sweden a 1-0 lead.

Carmen Rodallega gave Colombia some hope in the 66th minute, but her shot went over the bar and it appeared that goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl had it covered in any case. Rodallega was the most dangerous player for Colombia most of the day, making nice runs up the left side and menacing the Swedish right flank at times.

Sweden continued to attack. Therese Sjogran bent one just outside the upper right corner in the 78th minute. Two minutes later, a Sofia Jakobsson shot heading inside the left post was parried away by Sepulveda.

Colombia had one last chance in the 92nd minute, but Rodallega's shot went just over the bar and any dreams of a draw went out the window. Lindahl earned the shutout and Sweden took the three points.

While they won the match, Sweden had to be a bit disappointed with the result in a game they dominated. In a group where goal differential could make or break a quarterfinal bid, they are just a +1.

Colombia might have been a bit lucky at times, but they did manage to hang in there in their first ever appearance in the World Cup against a very tough Swedish team. Perhaps their biggest disappointment is that Yoreli Rincon really didn't get much chance to get into the offense, often dropping deep into her own half of the field to defend.

Sweden will now play Korea DPR on Saturday in a very important match that could well determine a quarterfinal berth. After facing a physical Swedish side today, Colombia gets to face an equally physical United States on Saturday.