MELBOURNE, Australia – The deadliest weapon of the 2023 World Cup stands just about immobile, full of a hopeless goalkeeper, terrified at his mere presence, ready to blow up.
Her identify is Amanda Ellstedt, but in addition Stena Blacksteinius, Natalie Bjorn, Magdalena Erickson, and Fridolina Rulfo. It is Sweden, aptly nicknamed Angle Crix FC, a longtime opponent of the US Ladies’s Nationwide Staff and now, right here 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 some other group on the earth.
Sweden swept Group G with 9 targets, of which 9, seven resulted from crosses or nook kicks.
The Swedes are big, with 9 gamers out on the sphere standing taller than all however two of the anticipated USWNT starters. They beat the US of their final assembly, 3-0 at the 2021 Tokyo Olympicswith two heads plus a rebound after a 3rd header hit the publish.
They’ve executed so ever since They refined their air dominance even further-Write positions and deliveries to take advantage of any given low cost.
“We determine how you can 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 publish (in opposition to Italy), and it labored rather well. It’s extremely tough for groups to defend in opposition to this type of go.”
Towards the US, the intersections may be the identical or totally different; Both means, it will not be any easier to fend off.
Sweden coach Vlatko Andonovski stated right here on Saturday that the US Soccer Federation is making ready, “analyzing and attempting to counter” the fixed Swedish risk. However when requested how he might put together for the Sweden derby, ahead Alex Morgan joked: “I’ve grown just a few inches in the previous couple of days.”
On a extra severe notice: “It is all the time an enormous battle – bodily and mentally, it is all about it,” USA captain Lindsey Horan stated Thursday. “It is a (Swedish) group that may obtain aerial presence, set-pieces, means to cross and get folks within the penalty space. I feel 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, no doubt,” ahead Alex Morgan stated Tuesday with a wry snort.
Morgan made his World Cup debut in 2011, when Sweden beat the US to high their group. I’ve now performed in seven main worldwide tournaments, and solely as soon as have these two acquainted foes been in a position to keep away from one another (on the 2012 Olympics).
Among the many repeated US opponents (15 or extra conferences) over the previous twenty years, Sweden can also be which the USWNT suffered from the most. The American’s 24-game profitable proportion is 50% – and it is reducing. USA 3W-4D-2L in opposition to the Swedes since 2013. Their match on the 2015 World Cup led to a 0-0 draw. The US gained 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 Individuals 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 evening.
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 means, that began the decline of the USWNT. The world champions slumped and stumbled throughout that match, ultimately crashing out within the semifinals and settling for the bronze medal. Then their record started to evolve, however lots of the identical issues nonetheless exist at the 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 varied particulars, however their identification is unwavering.
She helped the Swedes high Group G regardless of a comparatively underwhelming general 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 almost similar close-range headers from Anderson’s nook kick in opposition to 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, in fact, should comply with, creating chaotic boundaries between the goalkeeper and the swinging ball.
“By creating a lot ‘site visitors’ on this space, it is extremely tough 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 research group, recently explained.
Anderson takes the left-footed ones from the precise, 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 often jumps over and jumps opponents.
And what if a goalkeeper wrestled by means of 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 might irk US goalkeeper Alyssa Naher, whose newest try to say a floating free kick led to a full blow and maybe just a few coronary heart assaults in opposition to Portugal in stoppage time.
The USA will most likely attempt to hit Ilestedt and win the balls on the close to publish, however the “constant accuracy of (Andersson’s) deliveries could 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 precise 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 ultimate – they entered the attacking third extra instances by means of the precise wing or proper half (85 instances) than they did by means of the left wing or left half area (42 instances).
Eight of their 9 targets additionally originated in the precise half of the pitch – similar to all three of their targets in opposition to 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 finest on this World Cup by three matches.
Its fourth recreation shall be its strongest check but. Defensive quarterbacks Julie Ertz and Naomi Girma have been the highest two Individuals 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 Prepare dinner, in reserve, however she hasn’t performed a single minute of all of it by means of 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 best way we press? We noticed the group come out final yr with the identical general form.”
Rose Lavelle’s yellow card suspension will drive Andonovski to reinsert Savannah DiMelo into the beginning eleven. Trinity Rodman missed Friday’s coaching session attributable to sickness, however returned on Saturday. She or Len Williams might begin on the precise wing. Alyssa Thompson can also be a powerful candidate to start out. However probably 11 is a well-recognized one.
Attainable 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 more likely to begin: Zysira Mosovich Magdalena Erickson, Amanda Ellistest, Natalie Bjorn; Jonah Anderson, Elaine Robinson, Philippa Engeldahl, Joanna Kanreid; Fridolina Rulfo, Kosovari Aslani; Stena Plaxtenius