Swedes make presence felt
Having a look at goal 20 seconds in the Swedes fast fell back and England used their home advantage and reliance of physicality to push their visitors back. With those in yellow starting in a 3-4-3 with the natural full-backs pushed into midfield, they were left too narrow on the pitch to deal with the Lionesses. Keen to exploit the width, England saw their best build-up come down the flanks but failed to make a meaningful impression in the away box with Amanda Ilestedt on hand to clear any hopeful aerial balls.
Countering sporadically but looking short-handed in attack, decision making lacking, Sweden took a somewhat unexpected lead 20 minutes in. Studious work down the right from the returning Jessica Samuelsson saw the visitors push forward, marshalled by white shirts. Releasing Sofia Jakobsson, the Montpellier forward danced around just outside the box, finding a bank of England players in her way, without a clear pass to a teammate she opted to wrap the ball through, arcing it over Carly Telford.
Looking for a response, the hosts found none, still lacking the last touch of cohesion in the attacking third, the visitors again springing a fruitful counter. Having won a corner, Sweden came knocking once more, Caroline Seger’s initial header put behind for a second that the hosts failed to clear. With the ball pinging around in the box and boots flying, it was Anna Anvegård who got her toe to the errant ball first, slamming it into the back of the net.
The second half saw England amp up the pressure in attempt to get more at their opposition, the hosts with the lion’s share of possession and asking all the questions. The introduction of Fridolina Rolfö and Nathalie Björn on the hour helped the Swedes firm up the midfield to push back against the hurried Lionesses.
Losing their bite in attack, the hosts sagged back, their buoyant crowd not enough to inspire them into something meaningful.
Where do they go from here?
For England it’s the same old question of where will the goals come from? Against teams that bank, England struggle but the Swedes didn’t bank up, they just remained superior in defence. The Lionesses huffed and puffed, but unlike the big bad wolf, just couldn’t blow that particular house down.
The problems with putting the ball in the back of the net not just about who was and wasn’t on the pitch, the creativity and fluidity in attack lacking.
For Sweden, it was more of the same promising, progressive football. The team evolving every time they take to the pitch under Peter Gerhardsson’s management, the Scandinavian nation finding their identity. With Australia, the USA, France and England talked about potential favourites to win the World Cup, it makes little to no sense that people have ignored the rapid development of the Swedish team in the last year.
Not a newcomer to the set-up by any means, Sofia Jakobsson did well to impress in Rotherham, her zesty attacks and tireless running an integral part of the team. The entire Swedish midfield did bits to shine, whether Caroline Seger mopping in front of the defence or Kosovare Asllani continuing to grow into her new and more mature role, the team is well balanced and easy to watch.