Sweden opened their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory over South Korea in Group F thanks to Andreas Granqvist’s penalty, which was awarded after the use of video technology.
anne Andersson’s side were awarded a penalty in the 64th minute when VAR helped overrule referee Joel Aguilar’s original decision for a challenge on Viktor Claesson by Yong-Joon Lee inside the penalty area, from which Swedish captain Granqvist fired home (65).
It proved to be the only goal of the game as Sweden won their opening game at a World Cup for the first time since 1958 to move level with Mexico at the top of Group F following their shock 1-0 win over Germany on Sunday.
The two sides looked evenly matches in the opening stages of what was a tight affair, but Sweden eventually began to dominate proceedings, taking control of the midfield battle.
The first chance of the game fell to Sweden and indecision in the South Korea defence saw the ball drop to Marcus Berg on the edge of the six-yard box, but the striker’s poor finish was saved by Hyun-Woo Cho.
Sweden: Olsen (6), Lustig (7), Granqvist (8), Jansson (7), Augustinsson (6), Larsson (6), Ekdal (7), Claesson (7), Forsberg (7), Toivonen (7), Berg (7).
Subs: Hiljemark (6), Thelin (6), Svensson (6).
South Korea: Cho Hyun-Woo (7), Lee Yong (7), Kim Young-Gwon (7), Jang Hyun-Soo (6), Park Joo-Ho (6), Lee Seung-Woo (6), Koo Ja-Cheol (6), Ki Sung-yueng (7), Lee Jae-Sung (6), Hwang Hee-Chan (6), Heung-Min Son (7).
Subs: Min-Woo Kim (6), Seung-Woo Lee (6), Woo-Young Jung (6).
Man of the match: Andres Granqvist
The ball fell for Berg again on the half-hour mark and he was denied again, this time by an excellent last-ditch block from Young-Gwon Kim.
South Korea rarely threatened as an attacking force but talisman Heung-Min Son showed his threat on the break, using his pace to get to the byline but his cut back was intercepted by Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist.
Illness kept defender Victor Lindelof out of the Sweden team. He was replaced by Pontus Jansson. Swedish officials revealed the Manchester United centre-back had remained behind at their hotel but gave no other details. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Robin Olsen was named in the line-up after recovering from a shoulder injury that had threatened his World Cup participation.
South Korea, as expected, named Heung-Min Son and Hwang Hee-Chan to lead their attack, while captain Ki Sung-yueng competes at a third World Cup, starting in central midfield.
Both sides came out with more attacking intent after the break as Emil Forsberg’s shot flashed over the crossbar and Ja-Cheol Koo’s header hit the side netting.
Sweden were then presented with the opportunity to break the deadlock midway through the second half, courtesy of VAR.
The referee initially played on following Lee’s challenge on Claesson before halting play with South Korea on the attack and pointing to the penalty spot after being given advice from VAR and watching the replay on the pitchside screen.
Granqvist took full advantage, rolling the ball into the bottom corner to score Sweden’s first goal in 402 minutes of international football and secure a crucial three points.
- Sweden are unbeaten in all five of their previous meetings with South Korea (W3 D2).
- This was Sweden’s first win in their opening match at a World Cup since beating Mexico 3-0 as hosts in 1958, drawing five and losing two since then.
- South Korea have lost their opening match at a World Cup for the first time since 1998 (1-3 vs Mexico), ending a run of three wins and one draw. They are winless in their last seven World Cup matches (D2 L5), losing their last three in a row.
- There were 43 fouls in this match, the most of any game at the 2018 World Cup so far.
- 19% of the goals so far at this World Cup have been scored from the penalty spot (5/26).
- The first shot in this match came after exactly 20 minutes – the second-longest wait for a first attempt in a World Cup match since 1966 (20:59, Netherlands vs Costa Rica in 2014).
- Andreas Granqvist’s goal was the first scored by a Swedish player at a World Cup since Henrik Larsson netted against England in 2006. Granqvist (33y 63d) became the oldest player to score on his World Cup debut since Martin Palermo (36y 227d) for Argentina vs Greece in 2010.
Man of the Match – Andreas Granqvist
When Sweden needed a match winner, the captain, Granqvist, stepped up and delivered for Andersson’s side.
It had been 402 minutes since Ola Toivonen scored Sweden’s last international goal against Chile back in March.
And after VAR intervention, they were handed the chance of breaking that run and a nervous looking Granqvist stepped up, tucking the ball into the bottom to score his side’s first goal at a World Cup since 2006.
He also made a couple of crucial interventions at the other end of the pitch to cap an excellent captain’s display as Sweden got their campaign off to a winning start.
Sweden play Germany on Saturday at 7pm while South Korea face Mexico, also on Saturday at 4pm.