Chelsea’s Magdalena Eriksson played a key part in helping Sweden seal a place in the final 16 of the World Cup by assisting the fourth goal in her side's comfortable 5-1 victory against Thailand in the south of France.
Sweden will see this victory as a good omen as the last time they won their first two World Cup fixtures was in 2011 when they made it to the semi-finals of the tournament.
As Thailand had received a 13-0 thrashing against the USA in their opener, this fixture was also expected to have a high scoreline, especially as Sweden set up in a 4-3-3 formation. Eriksson started at left-back and made great use of her impressive left foot down the flank. Jonna Andersson is yet to play a part in her first World Cup and remained on the bench, with Hedvig Lindahl, our recent departure stationed in goal.
Sweden’s first chance came after four minutes when Eriksson delivered a pin-point cross into the box for Kosovare Asllani who was unable to direct her headed effort on target. However, it took the Scandinavians just six minutes to open the scoring in front of what was primarily a Swedish crowd. Elin Rubensson floated a deep cross into the box and Linda Sembrant was there in between two Thai defenders to head powerfully into the back of the net.
Although Sweden had the vast majority of possession, when Thailand did get a hold of the ball they were not afraid to throw numbers forward. A golden chance came for them when their captain and star player, Kanjana Sung-Ngoen, charged through the centre of midfield and unleashed a powerful shot that drifted narrowly wide of Lindahl’s post.
Asllani, voted as today’s player of the match scored her second of the game and a third of the tournament from an almost impossible angle 20 minutes into the game. Thailand’s goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing made a good save, but her attempted clearance fell to the Linkopings striker who slotted past the Southeast Asian keeper.
Eriksson went close to getting her first World Cup goal on the half-hour mark when she leapt above her marker, but her headed effort sailed just over the crossbar. Like the USA, Sweden put three past the Asians before the interval. Fridolina Roflo, who is expected to be one of Sweden’s bright players in this tournament, took advantage of Thailand’s failed clearance when she rifled her effort into the top corner giving Boonsing no chance in the Thai goal.
Sweden’s coach, Peter Gerhardsson, made it clear that they intended to score more goals when they made two attacking changes in the final stages of the match and, despite this bringing on fresh legs, Thailand did a good job of holding on for the majority of the second half although their second-half clean sheet went when Eriksson provided the assist for the fourth goal. She found space down the left channel and delivered a perfectly weighted cross into the area for Lina Hurtig to get her head on from 10-yards-out.
The Scandinavians lost track of Thailand’s best attacker, Sung-Ngoen, and she topped off an excellent individual performance when she finished superbly past Lindahl in added time. Although the Asians are most certainly exiting the Women’s World Cup, they were ecstatic along with their handful of fans when they grabbed a consolation goal against one of Europe’s strongest sides.
It was not over for the Swedes, and late into stoppage time they bagged a fifth when the referee adjudged that Natthakarn Chinwong handled in the area, a VAR review confirming a spot-kick in the 96th minute. Rubensson, who went close several times throughout Sweden’s dominant performance, added her name to the scoresheet when she made no mistake in calmly placing her effort into the bottom-left corner.
Six sides, including England, have already booked their place in the next stage of the Women’s World Cup, and after this afternoon's easy victory, Sweden becomes the seventh.
Next up for the Scandinavians is the task of facing the mighty USA in their final Group F match and although the two teams have progressed to the knockouts, it will still be an exciting battle to determine who finishes top.