Chelsea Women representatives Carly Telford, Fran Kirby, Karen Carney and Magdalena Eriksson all featured in this afternoon’s third-place play-off between England and Sweden, which resulted in the Swedes winning third place.
Both teams gave it their absolute all in this third-match play-off, but Sweden’s two early goals scored by Kosovar Asllani and former Chelsea player Sofia Jakobsson proved costly for England. Ellen White had a goal disallowed and although Kirby reduced the deficit before the break, it was not enough for the Lionesses to seal third place in the World Cup for a second consecuative time. England pushed the Scandinavians hard in the second half, but Sweden’s back-line defended resolutely to see the Lionesses off.
England and Sweden fell short at the penultimate hurdle – England lost 2-1 in their semi-final to the reigning champions, the USA, and Sweden missed out to current European champions the Netherlands due to an extra-time goal. Both sides were determined not to head home empty-handed and Sweden came out on top and sealed third place.
Phil Neville set up his side for the final time in this tournament in a 4-3-3 formation, and he made four changes from their semi-final loss. Kirby came back in, Telford remained in goal, Carney who announced her retirement from football yesterday featured for the last quarter of an hour and Millie Bright sat in the stands due to suspension.
Sweden made two alterations to their line-up, and they too had opted for a 4-3-3 formation. Blues’ centre-back Eriksson stayed in the back-line and Hedvig Lindahl, who departed from Chelsea prior to the tournament, remained in goal.
They have gone head-to-head 26 times in all competitions, resulting in 15 wins for Sweden, three for England and eight draws. This was the teams’ first showdown at a Women’s World Cup.
The Scandinavians came fast out of the blocks and registered two goals within 25 minutes. The opener came after just 11 minutes when a skewed clearance from Manchester United’s Alex Greenwood fell kindly to Linkopings’ Asllani on the edge of the box, and the striker slammed the ball past Telford. The second goal followed shortly when Jakobsson powered towards goal from the left and steered her sensational effort across Telford and out of reach in the top right-hand corner of the goal.
The Lionesses tried to strike back quickly, and Kirby was at the heart of the attack. She powered through midfield and played a lovely ball to Lucy Bronze who almost created a carbon copy of her goal against Norway. The right-back who was lingering outside the 18-yard box struck a shot beautifully that was heading into the bottom corner before Lindahl made a fingertip save.
Kirby, who had been England’s playmaker throughout the tournament, got her name on the scoresheet for the first time and halved the deficit for her country on the half-hour mark. Jill Scott released the no.10 down the right, she raced towards the Swedish box and beat her former team-mate in goal when she curled the ball into the bottom left corner.
England built momentum and two minutes later looked to have equalised through White, who brought a Beth Mead cross down with her back to goal, spun her marker and slotted past the Swedish no.1. However the golden boot contender had her goal disallowed after a VAR review confirmed that the ball bounced up on her right arm.
England were the sharper team for the majority of the second half with Kirby the most influential player on the pitch. It was evident that her first-half goal boosted her confidence as she was heavily involved in all routes of attack.
Carney stepped foot onto the field for her 144th and final time for England when she replaced Nikita Parris with 15 minutes left on the clock. The England legend came on to a very heartfelt applause and almost set up White for the much-needed leveller in Nice. The winger whizzed down the left flank and drilled a low cross towards the no.18 in the six-yard box who was unable to make decent contact with the ball and scuffed it the wrong side of the post.
Sweden claimed their third World Cup bronze medal by taking advantage of England’s sluggish start. The Lionesses battled right through to the end but ran out of time and were unable to find the leveller to push Sweden to extra-time.