Fateful loss to USA
Sweden: Hedvig Lindahl (Linköping) - Anna Paulson (Umeå), Hanna Marklund (Sunnanå), Stina Segerström (Kif Örebro) [81 Therese Lundin (MalmÖ)], Frida Östberg (Linköping) - Linda Forsberg (Djurgården), Caroline Seger (Linköping), Therese Sjögran (Malmö) [65 Nilla Fischer (Malmö)], Victoria Svensson (Djurgården) - Lotta Schelin (Göteborg), Hanna Ljungberg (Umeå)
Goals: 0-1 Abby Wambach (34 PK), 0-2 Abby Wambach (58)
Sweden started, as expected, with a 4-4-2 line-up, but coach Dennerby surprised by picking young almost-debutant Linda Forsberg for the fourth midfield position. And it worked pretty well in the beginning. The team managed to hold the ball on the American half of the field for more than a few passes, creating five corner-shots already in the first few minutes. But USA caught up already in the middle of the first half and after about half an hour Hedvig Lindahl misjudged a ball and put Stina Segerström in a position where she had to risk fouling Lori Chalupny inside the penalty area. The referee called the foul and Abby Wambach scored on the following penalty kick. Sweden started to look scared and the earlier fairly creative play changed into long-balling over the midfield. Abby Wambach scored 2-0 with a great finish from a Kristin Lilly pass 15 minutes into the second. Shortly after that Dennerby changed to a 4-3-3 and, towards the end of the match, something that looked like an attempt to play 4 attackers. Even a one-goal reduction of USA's win should have been valuable, but the Americans seemed much stronger and the difference increased during the match.
In the general comments after the match, there was total agreement that USA, not surprisingly, was the better team and that Sweden's chances to advance has turned from slim to almost non-existent. The team keeps up a brave face, even if Hanna Ljungberg admitted that they were dejected immediately after the match. Coach Dennerby insists that Sweden still has a good chance, one goal every thirty minutes against North Korea will do the job, a statement that earned him the nick-name Bagdad Bob in one of the tabloids.
SVT's commentator Thomas Wernersson points at three weaknesses in Sweden's play. The goalkeeping must be better. Hedvig Lindahl hasn't been her best, understandably after her long injury period, and this also spills over to the entire defense. The midfield plays to static, they win balls and pass them along, but they don't move forward. And the forwards must start scoring. The team create enough opportunities, but the finishing edge has been missing.
Caroline Jönsson in her Aftonbladet column comments on stand-in Hedvig Lindahl's mistake before the USA penalty kick and says that is the kind of misjudgements you can make when you lack in match training, but thinks Lindahl otherwise did a good job.
The Swedish Football Association's chairman Lars-Åke Lagrell said that Sweden's injuries before the World Cup decided the match before it was played. It is impossible for Sweden to defeat USA with anything less than our best: "They are so good, that we can't afford to play with our 12th choice player".
Stina Segerström was convinced her challenge on Chalupny was in the clear and couldn't believe her eyes when the referee pointed at the penalty point.
Therese Sjögran wasn't happy about being subbed out in the second half and several commentators agrees with her. "She was one of the few players that were still trying to play constructive by that time".
I disagree with Lagrell about the injured players who stayed at home. Of course, Jönsson would have avoided the mistake that Hedvig Lindahl made. Nevertheless, I do not understand that Thomas Dennerby chose Lindahl for playing as no. 1, just because she has played only five (!) matches for Linköping since her injury.
Sofia Lundgren would have been the logical choice, since she has played all 18 matches for AIK this season.
Hanna Ljungberg has played two matches, but even she is not totally recovered from her injuries. Today Hanna exercised only once instead of two times, because the has to take it easy. How can she play from the beginning then? Thomas Dennerbys mistakes by taking out Ljungberg against Nigeria and Sjögran against USA have been discussed by a lot of journalists. Against Nigeria the team took Ljungbergs exchange as a signal to fall back and keep the 1-0 lead, although Sara Johansson as another striker came in. But why did Sara play on the left side, where she plays on the right in Hammarby? Why plays Lotta Schelin on the right wing instead of center? Why did Sara Thunebro have to play left instead of right as in Djurgården?
There is a lack of allrounders in the Swedish team and it is easy to acknowledge that and use the players in positions where they show good matches in the league.
North Korea seems to be the last match in this tournament - if not, like Jennifer Wegerup wrote in Aftonbladet - a miracle of biblical power happens.
Rainer, this is an excellent analysis. I very much agree! Dennerby has made some huge mistakes, and I have given up trying to figure him out.
Sweden did beat North Korea in 2003, but that was with a lot of different players on the team. I am sorry to say, but with Lindahl in the goal, it is unlikely Sweden can win.
The questions aren't really as easy as that. The question Dennerby has to come up with an answer to is who should play to the left in the defense line. We have eight defenders, but not one of them is a natural leftsider. The ones that are (Kristin Bengtsson, Maria Bergqvist) were left at home, for good reasons. They were both considered a worse choice than having Östberg or Thunebro playing out of position.
Schelin has mostly played out-side in the national team, though when she scores it is usually from a central position. But with the 4-3-3 Sweden uses, you need to have forwards that take up positions on the outsides. And it would be a waste to put Hanna Ljungberg there.
I understand why Dennerby is clinging to the established names, hoping that they will prove fitter than they are. The alternatives are simply too weak. I'm fairly close to agree with Lagrell, and btw most of the Swedish press did the same assessment of the team when the squad was presented a couple of weeks ago
I agree that the Swedish team has no leftsider in the defense. And agree that Kicki Bengtsson ist not an alternative anymore, but Maria Bergqvist surely would have been.
Dennerby clings to the well known names. He does not take any risks with the results that we have seen.
Anyway, an early goal to put the pressure on North Korea would be sooo important tomorrow. And what if Sweden could go to halftime with a 2-0 lead...
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