Sweden bury World Cup opening jinx to beat ROK

Tuesday, 2018-06-19 01:29:26
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Sweden's Andreas Granqvist scores their first goal from a penalty. (Photo: Reuters)
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Sweden won an opening World Cup game for the first time since 1958 with a narrow 1-0 victory over the Republic of Korea (ROK), but they will need to find their shooting boots if they are to match their two other, trickier opponents in Group F.

After dominating the game but missing a string of chances, the Swedes won a 65th-minute penalty when Kim Min-woo brought down Viktor Claesson in the box. Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar initially waved the Swedes away, before being called to consult the Video Assistant Referee system.

In the second VAR-awarded penalty of the World Cup, Sweden’s 33-year-old captain Andreas Granqvist swept the ball low and left of impressive goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo.

The result brought wild celebrations from hordes of yellow-clad Swedish fans, fearful their team would draw another blank after failing to score in their last three games.

Sweden had not won an opening World Cup game since 1958, when they were the hosts and eventual runners-up.

The Asians began the game brighter, harrying for the first 15 minutes against an initially sluggish-looking Sweden.

But the Scandinavians quickly found their poise, coping comfortably with Korea’s attacks despite the absence of defender Victor Lindelof through illness.

In a game short on finesse, several of Sweden’s best chances fell to Marcus Berg, who had one close-range side-foot shot spectacularly saved by Cho off his knee in the 21st minute.

Both teams’ star players provided their creative drive, Son Heung-min trying to drive Korea forward from the left flank but again failing to have the same impact on the international stage as he does in the Premier League.

For Sweden, the pacy Emil Forsberg constantly fed the frontmen, and also curled a shot over from outside the box.

Korea’s best chances fell to Koo Ja-cheol, who headed just wide in the second half and Hwang Hee-chan who saw his stoppage-time header also just miss during a late, desperate siege.

Reuters