Keen to put old demons to rest from the get-go, Sweden started well, pushing Germany back and winning a succession of corners, the delivery ranging from short to bad to good, Linda Sembrant’s header just off target. Given a chance to reset, Germany moved forward swiftly and saw their own brace of corners, the ball dangerous and lively in the box, a half clearance saw Germany attack again before Sweden began to string passes together.
The tempo was ferocious as Dzsenifer Marozsán carried the ball back up the pitch for the current champions, Hedvig Lindahl on hand to make a fine save, her defence breached but sharp enough to keep Germany out. With Kristin Demann afforded space in the box, the defender quickly marked as Sweden once more cleared, living dangerously. The two old foes taking it in turn to attack each other, a slick move from Blågult brought about a creative piece of play from Germany, white shirts beginning to crowd the attacking third, Sweden’s defence stretched early.
With both sides hungry to attack they left acres of space across the pitch for each other to exploit, the game played like the last five minutes of a final, both desperate for the first goal, holding little back and they charged forward in numbers. Half an hour gone in a flash, both goalkeepers alert, both attacks primed and snuffed out by frantic defenders.
Lotta Schelin continued to roll back the years, Sweden’s favourite daughter tireless as ever as she worked against Josi Henning, Anna Blässe, et al, her endeavours enough to keep the ball alive for Kosovare Asllani to earn a corner. The corner count rose, both wasteful, Sweden more so; Olivia Schough doing nothing to argue her case for the designated corner taker in the Sweden team.
Whilst the Sweden team could have been predicted weeks ago there were surprises in Steffi Jones’ squad, Freiburg’s Carolin Simon particularly eye-catching at left-back in for Issy Kerschowski, the left side of Germany’s attack the more potent. The surprises didn’t stop there however as Mandy Islacker was introduced six minutes before the break for Svenja Huth, the Potsdam woman fine on the pitch but straight off down the tunnel after having the back of her thigh looked at. The Germany attack arguably strengthened by the forced substitution.
As you were
The second-half picked up where the first left off, both teams on the offensive but Germany the one looking more likely, the press high from the Olympic champions, their opposition looked ragged at the back. A free kick just outside the area saw Marozsán curl one towards the top corner five minutes after the restart, Lindahl’s gloves the safest place in Breda.
An injury to Schough ten minutes after the restart saw Elin Rubensson on in her place, Stina Blackstenius subbed in for Fridolina Rolfö at the same time, Sweden desperate to see more of the ball. However, as Sweden probed for an opening Germany threatened Lindahl’s goal at every opportunity, white shirts flying into the six-yard box, gasping to connect, Sara Däbritz frustrated after watching her improvised goal-bound effort blocked by Nilla Fischer.
Another cutting more saw Marozsán keep the ball alive to feed Simon, the full-back’s ball into the box touched just wide by Islacker, substitute Hasret Kayikçi also reaching for it. But again the ball was recycled and Blackstenius tore forward, the move cut out without reinforcements.
Turning the heat up
The ball moved from one end of the pitch to the other faster than the generic Mexican wave curled around the stadium, German attack, Swedish attack, block after block, the game ticked into the last twenty minutes and both still hunted for an opener.
Blackstenius began to cut up the left side of the pitch again, Henning hanging onto her as she continued on with the ball, into the box, unable to shake the Lyon defender but unwilling to go down, her boot stretched out to poke the ball towards the far post. Almuth Schult down to stop the danger, Schelin unable to capitalise against Babett Peter as the ball trickled away from the Wolfsburg ‘keeper. Sent clear and long, Islacker chased the ball over the top, Lindahl first to it to hoof it out of touch, the Chelsea number one jogging back quickly to see a Marozsán effort from range just slip over the bar.
Another German attack looked to open the door, Marozsán the one with the key again, her cross in for Islacker nipped over by Fischer, the deadlock refusing to be broken.
Chance after chance it seemed inconceivable that the game would finish 0-0 but in what will go down as a success for Sweden, their first positive (or at least, non-negative) result against Germany has left the group finely poised.