Sweden players celebrate with their bronze medals after winning the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women’s World Cup third place play-off soccer match between Sweden and Australia at Brisbane Stadium in Brisbane on Aug. 19, 2023. (AFP/Patrick Hamilton)
Sweden scored either side of half-time to spoil Australia’s party and claim third spot at the Women’s World Cup with a 2-0 win in Brisbane on Saturday.
In front of a crowd of nearly 50,000, Sweden took the lead with a 30th-minute penalty by Fridolina Rolfo and doubled their advantage with a powerful strike from Kosovare Asllani just after the hour.
It is the fourth time that Sweden have finished third at the tournament.
“It was an incredibly important match and the final 10 minutes were really tough,” coach Peter Gerhardsson said.
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“So when that final whistle went and we had won, there was a great sense of relief and it was a wonderful feeling.”
“It’s great to win a match of this magnitude; there’s been a lot of attention paid to this tournament back in Sweden.”
Sweden fully deserved their win against the hosts, dominating the midfield and keeping talismanic Australian striker Sam Kerr relatively quiet.
Australia’s other dangerous attacker, Mary Fowler, had a night to forget as she struggled physically against the size and power of the Swedish defenders.
By contrast, Sweden striker Stina Blackstenius caused havoc among the Australian defence during her 63 minutes on the pitch and had a hand in both goals.
Player of the match Rolfo said: “We showed from minute one that we were the better team. We deserved (to win) this match.”
Some of the Australia players were in tears at the end, but this was still the co-hosts’ best World Cup ever.
“We wanted to have some hardware to take home, it wasn’t to be,” said Kerr, who did not start a game at the tournament until the 3-1 semi-final defeat to England because of injury.
The skipper attempted to look at the bigger picture, saying: “We’ve proved to the world, and also within Australia, that we are a footballing nation.”
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The Swedes began with far more intent than the Matildas and dominated for most of the first period.
Playing a bit like England in the semi-final on Wednesday, the Swedes slowed the ball down and controlled the midfield.
Australia only really looked dangerous on the transition and for much of the time they were chasing shadows, struggling to get any meaningful possession.
The Swedes had a golden chance to take the lead in the first 60 seconds when Blackstenius shot low across goal.
Australian goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, who had another excellent night, parried the ball away and Ellie Carpenter did well to clear from in front of an open goal.
The Matildas didn’t have their first shot until the 24th minute when a Hayley Raso drive drew a good save from Sweden keeper Zecira Musovic.
But minutes later Sweden took the lead when VAR ruled that Clare Hunt had clipped Blackstenius’s heel after yet another dangerous run into the box from the Swedish striker.
Australia coach Tony Gustavsson made an attacking change on the 60-minute mark, bringing on Emily van Egmond and Cortnee Vine, but it was Sweden who continued to control the match.
They went some way to silencing the sell-out crowd when Blackstenius laid a ball across goal for Asllani, who smashed a powerful strike past a diving Arnold.
It was their last contribution of the night as both were subbed almost immediately.
Australia tried desperately to breach the Swedish defence in the last 20 minutes by lumping deep crosses into the box but Musovic was largely untroubled to keep a clean sheet.
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Andrew Dent (AFP)
● Sat, August 19, 2023