Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Five-star Sweden Crush Italy To Reach Women’s World Cup Last 16

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Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson described Amanda Ilestedt as a candidate for the Women’s World Cup golden boot after the towering defender scored twice with her head in a 5-0 thrashing of Italy on Saturday that booked her country’s berth in the last 16. A tight contest was blown open in a seven-minute spell late in the first half when the Swedes, ranked third in the world, found the net three times, through Ilestedt, Fridolina Rolfo and Stina Blackstenius.

Arsenal centre-back Ilestedt bagged her second soon after the interval to give her three goals for the tournament — all headers from corners — including a late match-winner in their opening 2-1 defeat of South Africa.

Substitute Rebecka Blomqvist rounded out the rout in stoppage time in front of nearly 30,000 in Wellington.

The Swedes are assured of finishing in the top two in Group G, becoming the third team to book a place in the knockout stage after Spain and Japan.

It was a flexing of the muscles from one of the tournament favourites, who have a history of near-misses at the World Cup.

Their set-piece prowess was on full show, with three of the goals coming from left-footed inswinging corners delivered by Jonna Andersson.

Gerhardsson admitted corners are an important part of his team’s attack.

“Set pieces are very much structure and it’s also technique and then it’s courage,” he said.

“The service is very important and Jonna is very good at this and has been doing it for many years.

“And we hope Amanda will go all the way and win the golden boot.”

‘Unreal’ for Ilestedt

Ilestedt was surprised by her prolific start to the tournament after being named player of the match for a second straight game.

“It feels a bit unreal but I’m very pleased,” she said.

“Maybe I didn’t expect three goals but I know that’s one of my strengths and it’s something we’re working on a lot at training.”

Sixteenth-ranked Italy, who suffered their heaviest defeat in 14 World Cup matches, went into half-time shellshocked after enjoying the better of the early stages.

Having opened the tournament with a 1-0 win over Argentina, their tournament will be over if they lose their final group match against South Africa on Wednesday.

Coach Milena Bertolini conceded they were overwhelmed by Sweden’s physicality after a strong start.

“They are very strong, they’re very physical and they’re very skilled, especially with their set pieces,” she said.

“They have a lot of weapons, a lot of arrows in their quiver.

“The first half-hour, we actually gave them a hard time… we were a bit fragile mentally because after two goals, we were not able to stay calm.”

Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic was tested by two sharp early strikes from Sofia Cantore, the only change to Italy’s starting side.

However, the Swedes began to gel and the floodgates opened in the 39th minute when the 1.78-metre Ilestedt leapt to glance home Andersson’s pinpoint corner.

Barcelona star Rolfo, who was a doubt for the game with a knee niggle, bagged her second goal of the tournament when Italy couldn’t clear from another corner.

Arsenal striker Blackstenius made it three in first-half stoppage time when she stabbed home after Johanna Kaneryd’s cross wasn’t cleared.

A leaping Ilestedt scored her second five minutes after the break and, as Italy wilted, Blomqvist went through on goal one on one for number five.

Sweden, who have now qualified for the knockout phase in eight of nine World Cup appearances, will play their final group game against Argentina in Hamilton on Wednesday.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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