05/03/2024

The Matildas pre-match Photo: Matildas - Twitter

Sweden defeated Australia 4-2 in a game that will leave The Matildas ruing a missed opportinity.

The Matildas 10 game run without a win against Sweden continued in Saitama following an entertaining but disappointing 4-2 defeat. For all your Olympic coverage stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic Hub and The Olympics Central.

Teagan Micah started in goal replacing Lydia Williams and making her first start in senior competition. Sam Kerr’s Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson started for Sweden after missing the win over the U.S.A.

Kerr sent an early scare through the Matildas camp. When attempting a shot on goal she missed and kicked the defender’s foot. The captain momentarily hobbled but looked ok to continue.

The striker was not as isolated as she had been in the friendly in June. Both teams were compact and the space between the midfield and attack was small.

Fridolina Rolfo opened the scoring for Sweden. She hammered home a Sofia Jakobsson cross in the 20th minute. she was unmarked six yards out and made no mistake as the ball escaped the outstretched leg of Clare Polkinghorne.

Australia moved the ball through midfield comfortably but attacking moves broke down in the final third. Sweden defended with discipline but often The Matildas hesitated on the final pass.

That was rectified in the 36th minute, Kyah Simon picked up the ball on the left and aimed a curling pass into the penalty area.

Kerr was there to leap higher than the Swedish defense and head the ball past Lindahl in goal. The keeper pawed the ball away but not before it had crossed the line.

Minutes later the referee waved away a penalty appeal by Australia. Kerr sprinted into the box and was goalside and about to shoot when she appeared to be brought down.

The referee did not think that enough contact had been made but Australia would have considered themselves unlucky.

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At the halftime whistle, the sides were deadlocked and Sweden was lucky not to be a goal down. It remained anybody’s game with guaranteed progression into the next round at stake.

The Swedish luck ran out in the 47th minute when Caitlin Foord’s left-foot cross flew beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. Sam Kerr scored her second of the game when she was on hand to nod home.

The lead lasted minutes when Jakobsson again ran beyond Catley and put it on a platter for Lina Hurtig to tap home and level the scores. It was an almost identical move to the first goal, Jakobsson was given time and space to pick a pass and Hurtig would have found it harder to miss.

Lina Rolfo delivered another blow when she was given too much space within range. A 20-yard bullet whistled past Micah in the 62nd minute.

There was little the goalkeeper could do. Rolfo was not closed down quickly enough and put into a good position by clever movement and quick passing.

In the game’s next twist, Australia received a penalty after Caitlin Foord was clipped as she twisted into the box, Kerr stepped up to take the shot but it was saved. It would be the turning point in a remarkable contest.

An equalizer at this stage would have changed the match and it would be the last easy chance The Matildas had of scoring. Sweden showed them no mercy when given the opportunity.

Blackstenius put the game beyond reach with a headed goal. She directed her effort beyond Micah in the 82nd minute.

It was her third goal in two games and Gustavsson would have been disappointed that she was left open.

Sweden only has New Zealand to account for and will certainly go through to the next round. Australia has it all to play for against the U.S.A but showed enough ability that the Americans will not overawe them.

The Australians will face the USA on Tuesday July 27 at 5pm.

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