The opening exchanges were wonderfully open, the pendulum swinging back and forth between the two as they took it in turns to attack. Sweden starting off with the pressure that eased as China began to dictate with possession, yellow shirts flying making block after block in and around the box. Once again Sweden attacked, Lotta Schelin bringing the ball forward but letting it run to far for Zhao Lina to claim in the box before the Rosengård attacker could pull the trigger.
Heart in mouth moments as China went looking again, Nilla Fischer forced to head behind for a corner, the bounce just taking it away from the inside of Hedvig Lindahl’s far post.
The game continued on at the same pace, end-to-end football but drawn out and sluggish. Sweden attacked, China recovered and attacked and so on, neither team in much of a hurry to press either. Sweden brightest out wide with Schelin and Olivia Schough, the Steel Roses better when moving the ball more centrally.
As the half wore on, Sweden began to see more and more of the ball, Schelin a constant driving force for her side but the attacks didn’t last long before being broken down, mostly by misunderstanding between those in yellow. As China’s trips further up field grew more infrequent the Swedes defended better with more bodies at the back to keep their opposition at arms’ length.
As you were
The second-half continued in the same vein as the first. Though neither side were specially playing for a draw, a 0-0 suited both and they seemed happy enough to conserve their energy and not over-commit for fear of being caught and exiting the tournament.
After a handful of half-chances for the Steel Roses on either flank through Yu Gasha and Wang Shaung, Sweden ventured forward once more. Fridolina Rolfö getting to the byline before skimming the ball across Lina’s goal, the keeper quick to grab the loose ball. Frustrated by Sweden’s lack of pressure, Pia Sundhage attempted to force the issue by introducing Manchester City’s Kosovare Asllani.
China had a glorious chance to take the lead half-way through the second-half when Zhang Rui sent a teasing free kick to the front post, Liu Shanshan wiggled away from her marker but failed to get the all-important touch on the ball before Lindahl made a grateful grab. Still the two remained deadlocked
With time ticking down, Asllani chanced her arm from outside the box but could only watch her drilled effort drift wide.
Picking it apart
It certainly seemed like neither team’s heart was quite in it, neither willing to go all out when draw would see them safely through. Whether intentional or subconscious neither wanted to put everything on the line to secure the win and in a gruelling tournament such as this, saving themselves for the next is certainly the smarter option.
Though the fans who attended or stayed up to watch may feel hard done-by by such a below-par performance, both sides well capable of more. A sterner test awaits in the next round.