Auckland, New Zealand – The deadliest weapon of the 2023 World Cup stands nearly immobile, filled with a hopeless goalkeeper, terrified at his mere presence, ready to blow up.
Her title is Amanda Ellstedt, but additionally Stena Blacksteinius, Natalie Bjorn, Magdalena Erickson, and Fridolina Rulfo. It is Sweden, aptly nicknamed Nook Kicks FC, longtime foes of the US Ladies’s Nationwide Workforce and now, at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Sunday (5 a.m. ET, Fox), the USWNT’s World Cup Spherical of 16 contender.
And it’s a potential conqueror of back-to-back champions as a result of it does one thing higher than another workforce on the planet.
Sweden swept Group G with 9 targets, of which 9, seven resulted from crosses or nook kicks.
The Swedes are large, with 9 gamers out on the sphere standing taller than all however two of the anticipated USWNT starters. They beat the USA of their final assembly, 3-0 at the 2021 Tokyo Olympicswith two heads plus a rebound after a 3rd header hit the put up.
They’ve carried out so ever since They refined their air dominance even further-Write positions and deliveries to use any given low cost.
“We resolve methods to do it each recreation, relying on the place the strongest and weakest gamers are,” defined defender Jonah Anderson after three of her left corners led to targets in Italy’s 5-0 win final week. “We centered on the close to put up (towards Italy), and it labored very well. It’s totally troublesome for groups to defend towards this sort of go.”
Towards the USA, the intersections could be the identical or totally different; Both manner, it will not be any easier to fend off.
“It is all the time an enormous struggle – bodily, mentally and every part associated to it,” US captain Lindsey Horan stated Thursday. “It is a (Swedish) workforce that may obtain aerial presence, set-pieces, means to cross and get individuals within the penalty space. I believe that is one thing we completely want for a defensive recreation.”
“We bought kicked, proper?
It is a match that the USWNT surprisingly and improbably is aware of all too properly.
“It will not be a serious match if we do not play Sweden,” Horan stated with a smile.
“Sure, we all the time play Sweden. In each main match, unquestionably,” ahead Alex Morgan stated Tuesday with a wry chuckle.
Morgan made his World Cup debut in 2011, when Sweden beat the USA to high their group. I’ve now performed in seven main worldwide tournaments, and solely as soon as have these two acquainted foes been capable of keep away from one another (on the 2012 Olympics).
Among the many repeated US opponents (15 or extra conferences) over the previous 20 years, Sweden can also be which the USWNT suffered from the most. The American’s 24-game successful share is 50% – and it is lowering. USA 3W-4D-2L towards the Swedes since 2013. Their match on the 2015 World Cup resulted in a 0-0 draw. The US received in 2019, however Sweden has inflicted ache in every of the final two Olympics. He knocked out the USA on penalties within the 2016 quarterfinals, dooming the People to their earliest exit at a serious match ever.
Then got here the 2021 recreation, within the COVID Video games, in a really empty Tokyo stadium.
“We kicked our ass, proper?” Megan Rapinoe stated that night time.
The kicking ass 3-0 went on a 44-game unbeaten run. This was American coach Vlatko Andonovski’s first loss whereas in cost. And in a manner, that began the decline of the USWNT. The world champions slumped and stumbled throughout that match, finally crashing out within the semifinals and settling for the bronze medal. Then their listing started to evolve, however most of the identical issues nonetheless exist right this moment.
Sweden continues to rise above the competitors
In the meantime, Sweden’s scheme has hardly modified since 2021. “We have been good at free kicks for a very long time,” stated coach Peter Gerhardsson right here on the World Cup. They modify formations (4-3-3 or 3-4-3), add wrinkles and dig in numerous particulars, however their identification is unwavering.
She helped the Swedes high Group G regardless of a comparatively underwhelming total efficiency. South Africa took a well-deserved lead within the second half within the opening match. Italy regarded superior for many of the first half within the second spherical of the match. However Kicks FC’s nook rose above each of them – fairly actually.
Ilestedt, the 5-foot-10, shook Arsenal’s protection with a header within the ninetieth minute to defeat the African champions.
She then shot to the highest of the Golden Boot standings with two practically equivalent close-range headers from Anderson’s nook kick towards Italy.
Sweden’s set-piece setup was as apparent because it was unstoppable. Ellistite, Blackstenius (5-foot-9 Arsenal striker) and Bjorn (5-foot-9 Everton defender) crowded close to the goal-half. Defenders, after all, should comply with, creating chaotic obstacles between the goalkeeper and the swinging ball.
“By creating a lot ‘visitors’ on this space, it is extremely troublesome for a goalkeeper to take a optimistic first step and obtain the peak required to take possession of the excessive ball,” Anna Signol, former Swedish midfielder, coach and member of FIFA. technical examine group, recently explained.
Anderson takes the left-footed ones from the correct, and the attacking midfielder Kosovare Asllani takes the attacking midfielder from the left. They intention for the six-yard field, particularly the Ilestedt head, who incessantly jumps over and jumps opponents.
And what if a goalkeeper wrestled via a jam to disable it? Rulfo (5-foot-10 Barcelona winger) and Eriksson (5-foot-8 Bayern Munich fullback) will get caught up in any foul.
Their presence could irk US goalkeeper Alyssa Naher, whose newest try to say a floating free kick resulted in a full blow and maybe a number of coronary heart assaults towards Portugal in stoppage time.
The USA will in all probability attempt to hit Ilestedt and win the balls on the close to put up, however the “constant accuracy of (Andersson’s) deliveries may be very spectacular,” Signeul stated. “She will get the higher of the primary defender each time.”
Set items accounted for 5 of Sweden’s 9 targets. Assaults the correct account of three others.
From open play, the Swedes are very uneven. In these first two matches – associated, as a result of they performed reserves within the group closing – they entered the attacking third extra occasions by the use of the correct wing or proper half (85 occasions) than they did via the left wing or left half house (42 occasions).
Eight of their 9 targets additionally originated in the correct half of the pitch – identical to all three of their targets towards the USA two years in the past got here from right-side crosses.
They won’t create waves and waves of alternative. However the individuals who make them would carry peerless hazard. Sweden The average number of goals expected per shot without a penalty is 0.17 – A measure of high quality of alternative, no matter amount – is the mixed greatest on this World Cup by three matches.
Its fourth recreation will likely be its strongest take a look at but. Defensive quarterbacks Julie Ertz and Naomi Girma had been the highest two People within the USWNT.
Sadly, they’re 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-5.
Predicted beginning lineup: USWNT vs Sweden
Andonovsky has 5-foot-9 centre-back, Alana Cook dinner, in reserve, however she hasn’t performed a single minute of all of it via the match.
It appears unlikely he’d make wholesale adjustments, since he’s, like Kristen Press, a former USWNT ahead said this week“Did we see any tactical tweaks final yr? Did we see any totally different formations tried? Did we see any tweaks to the way in which we press? We noticed the workforce come out final yr with the identical total form.”
Rose Lavelle’s yellow card suspension will pressure Andonovski to reinsert Savannah DiMelo into the beginning 11. Trinity Rodman missed Friday’s coaching session because of sickness, in keeping with an NFL spokesperson, which may tip the scales in the direction of Len Williams as soon as once more on the correct wing. . Alyssa Thompson can also be a powerful candidate to begin. However most certainly 11 is a well-recognized one.
Doable begin for the US XI: Alyssa Naher, Crystal Dunn, Naomi Girma, Julie Ertz, Emily Foxx; Andy Sullivan, Lindsey Horan, Savannah DiMillo; Sophia Smith, Alex Morgan, Lynn Williams
Sweden 11 is prone to begin: Zysira Mosovich Magdalena Erickson, Amanda Ellistest, Natalie Bjorn; Jonah Anderson, Elaine Robinson, Philippa Engeldahl, Joanna Kanreid; Fridolina Rulfo, Kosovari Aslani; Stena Plaxtenius