July 16, 2011

Sweden Takes 3rd Place

Playing one player down for the last 22 minutes and stoppage, Sweden managed to pull out a 2-1 victory over France to give them third place in the 2011 World Cup. Marie Hammarstrom became the hero with a stunning strike in the 82nd minute.

Both teams entered this third place match minus one of their star players. Marie-Laure Delie for France and Caroline Seger for Sweden were both out of this match because of injuries. Sweden started Nilla Fischer in the midfield for Seger. France went with Eugenie LeSommer for Delie. And in yet another shuffling of the French back line, Bruno Bini started Corine Franco at right back and put Wendie Renard in at center back.

Sweden appeared to break through in just the fifth minute. Linda Forsberg hit a forceful header through with Lotta Schelin getting behind the defense and scoring, but offsides was the ruling in what was a very close call. Sweden again came close in the 14th minute, with Charlotte Rohlin heading a corner kick, but right at Berangere Sapowicz.

France's first real chance was in the 23rd minute, with LeSommer getting through with some room on the right side of the box, but her low shot was lacking pace and directly at Hedvig Lindahl.

Sweden did take the lead in the 29th minute. Sara Larsson sent a brilliant long ball out of the back, splitting the central defenders with Schelin running onto it. Schelin used the outside of her right foot to touch it past a charging Sapowicz and into the goal.

Sapowicz was injured on the play as her foot got tangled with Schelin's after the shot and she landed very awkwardly on her ankle. Celine Deville had to replace Sapowicz and Louisa Necib, who had received a knock in the knee earlier came off in favor of Elodie Thomis. France were down a goal and had lost two more players to injury.

France came back with a couple of chances. Gaetane Thiney shot high and wide to the right from 14 yards in the 33rd minute. France came very close in the 36th minute with Thiney touching the ball to Elise Bussaglia, whose drive from 22 yards hit the right post squarely and bounced away.

Sweden had a couple of chances of their own in the closing minutes of the half. Rohlin once again came close on a header off of a corner kick, with this one going just inches over the crossbar. As the final seconds ticked off, Therese Sjogran found Schelin open on the right side. She dribbled into the penalty area to within eight yards, but her shot was right at Deville's head and the French keeper pushed it away.

France did get the tying goal early in the 2nd half. In the 56th minute, Thiney turned on a defender and pushed the ball ahead to Thomis. Her right-footed shot from 20 yards was well placed inside the left post and it beat Lindahl to tie the score at one.

Sweden made their first substitution in the 62nd minute, sending in Marie Hammarstrom for Linda Forsberg. It would prove to be a fortuitous decision for Thomas Dennerby.

The action went end-to-end in the next few minutes. Lisa Dahlqvist sent Josefine Oqvist in alone on the left side. But with Deville coming out to cut off the angle, Oqvist's shot hooked just a bit and the ball bounced off the right post and away. At the other end, Thomis was able to get within six yards to take a shot from a bad angle, but Lindahl made the save on that shot. The ensuing corner kick saw Thomis putting the ball just wide of the post.

Things got very chippy in the 68th minute. With Oqvist approaching the penalty area from the right side, she and Sonia Bompastor collided. It appeared that Bompastor tried to kick Oqvist as both were falling to the ground. Oqvist retaliated by kicking Bompastor and as often happens, only the second offense was caught by the referee and Oqvist was sent off.

Sweden made another substitution as Nilla Fischer went down with an injury and Linda Sembrandt was sent in.

In the 82nd minute, Schelin and Laura Georges were chasing the ball on the side of the penalty area, with the ball appearing to go of Schelin last. However, Sweden was awarded a corner on the play and that decision proved important.

Sjogran took the corner and it was headed away by France, but Hammarstrom recovered the ball about 25 yards from the goal. She first volleyed the ball over LeSommer's head, then touched the ball back to the left to get by Bompastor. She then released a bullet of a strike that found the upper left corner of the goal, beating Deville and putting Sweden back ahead by a 2-1 margin. It was certainly one of the best goals of the tournament.

Now down a goal, France subbed in Caroline Pizzala for Franco in the 84th minute. France's best chance came as the game entered the fourth minute of stoppage time. LeSommer sent the ball behind the Swedish defense to Thomis, but Lindahl dove out and beat the French striker to the ball before she could get a shot off.

Sweden was able to finish the match with a 2-1 victory. Interestingly enough, it was the third time that a red card has been shown in this tournament, and in each case, the team playing a man down came back to score a goal. France's Laura Georges scored after Sapowicz had been redcarded against Germany to cut the lead to 3-2 in what proved to be a losing effort. Abby Wambach scored the game-tying goal against Brazil in the quarterfinals after Rachel Buehler had been sent off. Hammarstrom scored the winning goal in this match after Oqvist had been sent off.

For Sweden, it was second time they have finished third at the World Cup, the first being in 1991. Their highest finish was their second place effort in the 2003 World Cup. The fourth place finish was the highest ever by France.