Joey LynchAustralia Correspondent4 Minute Read
Set for yet another meeting with old foes the United States, Sweden will not only look to build on their 3-0 win at the Tokyo Olympics in the rematch but also use extending the legendary career of Caroline Seger as extra motivation to “make sure that we will knock out the U.S.”
A failure to top Group E has put the USWNT on course for another collision with Sweden in the round of 16, a fixture which has been previously played six times at a Women’s World Cup level and in each of the last five tournaments.
But while it’s the U.S. that hold the overall advantage in those meetings, it was Sweden that emerged victorious in the last competitive meeting between the two in the group stages of the Tokyo Olympics: a Stina Blackstenius brace lifting Sweden to a 3-0 win that ended the USWNT’s 44-game unbeaten streak.
Having topped Group E with three straight wins — scoring nine goals against just one conceded — to set up the meeting with their old rivals, Chelsea midfielder Johanna Rytting Kaneryd said that they could take things both “mentally and technically” from that Tokyo victory.
“We’ve had some good results against them in the last couple of years,” she said. “We are confident and I think we know how to hurt them, but it’s gonna be a challenging game and we have a lot of respect for them. It’s a really, really good team who won the last World Cup.
“They want, a little bit like us, they want to play with a lot of speed and they want to win the ball and go for attacks straightaway. I feel like that’s where we can go for the attack as well.
“We are the best when we win the ball high up the pitch and really hurt them there. So hopefully, if we get that part right from the start, I think we can have a good game.”
The width of a goalpost all that stood between them and group-stage elimination at the hands of Portugal, alarm bells have been ringing over the form of the two-time defending champions, questioning if their form line is one that can produce a World Cup winner.
On Wednesday, captain Lindsey Horan said that the side’s form would improve when they “get a little bit more of that joy back,” but when asked if Sweden could counter that and extend the misery, defender Nathalie Bjorn had a simple answer.
“That we have the ball,” she said. “When you play football, we want to have the ball and if the US has the ball too much they are going to control the game. We don’t want them to control the game.
“We want to have the ball and create our own chances, we need to be very critical in our press and try to make them force mistakes.”
Regardless of who comes out on top on Sunday, the fixture will represent the final curtain on the World Cup career of at least one legend, with USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe and Sweden icon Seger already announcing that this is their final bow on the world stage.
And ensuring that Seger’s career doesn’t come to a premature conclusion, at the very same ground that Christine Sinclair and Marta’s World Cup careers ended earlier this week, is serving as a powerful motivator for Sweden.
“We get very, very motivated by that,” said Bjorn. “We haven’t even thought about that kind of outcome [Seger’s World Cup career ending].
“We will have full focus on Sunday. We will do everything we can as a team, as individuals, and then we’ll make sure that we will knock out the US.”