Sweden dominate Portugal, hitting top gear at Euros just in time for the knockout rounds

LEIGH, England — Every major tournament has a slow starter, a team struggling to justify top billing until the pressure to deliver demands they live up to the hype, but Sweden switched at Euro 2022 finally got in and secured his spot in the quarterfinals with a 5-0 win over Portugal.

While the spotlight has rightly been placed on the outstanding performances of hosts England and eight-time European champions Germany in the group stage – both teams have a 100 per cent track record so far – it was Sweden who entered the tournament, Europe’s highest-ranked nation. Only the United States are ahead of Sweden in the FIFA Women’s World Ranking and Peter Gerhardsson’s team is packed with players from top clubs such as Manchester City, Chelsea, Juventus, Barcelona and German champions Wolfsburg.

Despite their origins, however, Sweden went into the final game of Group C against Portugal and still needed a positive result to secure a place in the knockout rounds.

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A 1-1 draw with reigning champions Netherlands in the opening game was followed by a thrilling 2-1 win over Switzerland, with Hanna Bennison’s late goal sealing a much-needed win. But in both games, Sweden struggled to show the form that has propelled them to second place in the world. However, their stamina and determination ensured they faced Portugal at least in Leigh and had their fate in their own hands in qualifying.

Portugal, only confirmed in early May as a late substitute following Russia’s exclusion from Euro 2022, was a surprise package in the competition, drawing in the opening game against Switzerland and narrowly losing 3-2 to the Netherlands they had with them a win against the Swedes an outside chance to qualify. But it was clear from the outset that there was a clear class divide between the two teams in this game, played in the sweltering 90-degree heat of the North West. The Swedes were physically stronger, more skilled and better organized than their opponents, who are ranked 30th in the world.

The game started and continued with a wave of Swedish attacks, with the Scandinavians scoring at regular intervals to completely control the game and eventually the group.

Portugal lasted until the 21st minute when goalkeeper Patricia Morais’ error gave Filippa Angeldal the opener. Morais came on to claim a corner but dropped the ball in the six-yard box, resulting in an easy finish for the Manchester City midfielder.

Angeldal then doubled Sweden’s lead after 45 minutes by completing a well-crafted free-kick. Captain Kosovare Asllani seemed ready to send her set piece into the Portuguese box, but she instead pulled it back for unmarked Angeldal, who scored with a first shot from the edge of the box.

Portugal lacked the quality to get back into the game as Sweden dominated all areas of the pitch and after Angeldal’s second goal it was a case of damage limitation for Francisco Neto’s team. Portugal were 3-0 down at half-time after Morais failed to catch the ball again from a corner, leading to an own goal from Carole Costa.

The Swedes were in full control at this point, with their group position dependent only on the outcome of the Netherlands-Switzerland game in Sheffield. But a comfortable win would secure Sweden top spot and a quarter-final in Leigh against Iceland, Italy or Belgium on Friday, so they were pushing for more second-half goals. They made it 4-0 in the 53rd minute when Asllani scored from the penalty spot after a handball by Diana Gomes.

Stina Blackstenius saw an offside goal as Sweden upped the tempo but the Arsenal striker was finally on the scoresheet in the 90th minute after breaking into the Portuguese box before beating Morais with a right footed shot from 15 yards out.

With a secure top spot in Group C, Sweden are sure to avoid France in the last eight and will be heavily favored in the quarter-finals whoever they meet later this week.

And after Sunday’s reckless performance, Sweden can now build the momentum they need to win this tournament for the first time since 1984.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/uefa-womens-european-championship/story/4702514/sweden-dominate-portugalhitting-top-gear-for-first-time-at-these-eurosjust-in-time-for-the-knockout-rounds Sweden dominate Portugal, hitting top gear at Euros just in time for the knockout rounds

Emma Bowman

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