I watched the Sweden-Portugal match at the Women's Euro 2022, and that is definitely what I've been waiting for from Sweden! We started the tournament against the Netherlands, who are definitely a good team, but they were there for the taking and we couldn't do it. We looked very rusty against Switzerland in our second match, but managed a goal early in the second half, then conceded immediately afterwards and had to wait until the 79th minute to score the winner. It was not fun to watch, and the Swedish media were rightly critical of the performance. This match, on the other hand, was fun to watch, and I don't think the papers will be finding too much fault with the performance in the morning.
We started very strongly, playing the first ten minutes or so pretty much in Portugal's box. Being an Arsenal fan, I had that feeling like "we need to make this pressure count or we're gonna regret it!" Well, we didn't make that pressure count and we very nearly did regret it, as Portugal fought their way back into the game and probably should have scored in the 17th minute. That seemed to be the warning we needed, and Asllani took the game by the scruff of the neck, striking terror into the Portuguese defenders with her quick feet, great passing, and willingness to engage in the Dark Arts when necessary. At 21 minutes, she made a great pass to set up Nathalie Björn for a shot which was deflected out for a corner. The delivery was good from the ensuing corner, and the Portuguese goalkeeper came and punched it but didn't get much distance, and when the ball dropped for Filippa Angeldahl, she blasted it in.
We continued turning the screw with some great pressing and varied attacking play, winning a few more corners and looking dangerous, and then on 42 minutes, Stina Blackstenius scored the goal of the tournament! Asllani received a pass with her back to goal, but instead of controlling the back, she laid on a delicious backheel to send Blackstenius through 1:1 against the keeper, and Stina made no mistake with the finish. Unfortunately, she did make a mistake with the timing of her run, and the goal was rightly ruled out for offside. 😭
I was composing an angry tweet about how life is so unfair because the sheer artistry of the pass from Asllani deserved a goal, when I got distracted by some more great play by Asllani, this time a tricky dribble down to the baseline on the right that drew a foul from the Portuguese defender. Asllani took the resulting free kick low, pulling it back to Angeldahl as she made a run into the box and knocked it in to make it 2-0 right before halftime. I decided to abort the tweet, as it no longer felt that important to be upset about a goal we didn't score.
There had been a fair few stoppages for injury, so 7 minutes were added on at the end of the first half, and we got another goal off another set piece in the 7th of those minutes! It was more than I had hoped for, but certainly no less than our performance up to that point warranted.
The second half was more of the same: Sweden pressing and winning the ball back time and again, and unlike our errant and fairly insipid passing against the Netherlands and Switzerland, this time we were moving the ball with purpose and not wasting it. Stina Blackstenius started looking like her old self, making some good runs and getting a few shots off, but she definitely looked like she needed a goal to shake the cobwebs completely off after returning from a minor injury that kept her out of the starting lineup for our first group game.
At 53 minutes, we were awarded a penalty (rather harshly, I have to admit) for a handball in the box by Portugal. Asllani stepped up to take it, and put it so far into the bottom right corner that the keeper couldn't get a hand to even though she guessed the right way.
A few minutes later, Stina B finally got the goal she needed, with a beautiful looping header over the keeper off the inside of the far post, but of course it was ruled out for offside. They showed the frame that VAR used to make the ruling, and sure enough, Stina's shoulder is at least two millimetres ahead of the last defender's foot. Great use of technology there! 🙄
Sweden took their foot off the pedal a bit after about 75 minutes, and Portugal had a chance or two which they couldn't take, but then Blackstenius finally got her goal one minute into added time, blasting it into the top corner from just inside the box. I swear she looked over at the line judge to see if the flag was up. 😂
That was a lot of fun, and I think fans and the players themselves needed a reminder of why we are highly rated. I think there's still room for improvement, which is encouraging, because England and Germany look like the teams to beat at this tournament, and if we want to have a chance of beating either of them, we're going to need to do all of the good stuff we did today, but better.
Now we're through to the quarterfinals as group winners, meaning we meet the runners up from Group D, which will be one of Iceland, Belgium, or Italy. I'm hoping it will be Iceland, who are definitely one of the underdogs in the tournament. They're playing France tomorrow (😱), so I would expect they'll need a lot of luck to go through, but stranger things have happened.
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