Sweden 2-0 Australia: Blågult claim bronze as co-hosts bow out empty-handed

Despite failing to reach the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, Sweden and Australia found themselves with one last opportunity to avoid ending this tournament empty-handed. With the Matildas benefitting from the home crowd in Brisbane, would they be able to convert an incredible atmosphere into a sensational win?

SWE: Musovic; Andersson, Eriksson, Ilestedt, Björn; Rubensson, Angeldahl; Rolfö, Asllani, Rytting Kaneryd; Blackstenius

AUS: Arnold; Catley, Polkinghorne, Hunt, Carpenter; Foord, Cooney-Cross, Gorry, Raso; Kerr, Fowler

Sweden were quick to apply pressure to the co-hosts in Brisbane, darting through the middle of the pitch within the opening minute as Asllani picked out Blackstenius. The Arsenal forward was able to power a low strike across the goalkeeper, though Arnold was able to palm it away and avoid falling behind early on.

The Blågult looked to be the brighter side throughout the opening stages, with Björn also threading a ball through for Blackstenius – but her attempted cross to Rolfö was overhit, giving the Barça Femení star no chance of slotting home the opener.

But as the match progressed, it was the Matildas that fabricated the best chance of the game thus far. Regaining possession on the halfway line, the ball was promptly sprayed out to Carpenter on the right flank. Noticing Raso on the far side, the Lyon star picked out her international colleague with a well-placed cross – she was ultimately denied by Musovic.

Just as it looked as though Sweden were struggling to cling on to the match, the Scandinavians were awarded a golden opportunity to take the lead. Under pressure from Polkinghorne, Blackstenius tumbled to the ground in the penalty area – but with the referee playing advantage, Asllani was able to pick out Rolfö, who flicked a header against the crossbar! Yet the referee was called to the pitchside monitor almost immediately, and was forced to award a penalty – as it transpired that Polkinghorne had clipped Blackstenius’ foot.

Despite having flicked that initial effort against the woodwork, it was Rolfö that stepped up to strike from the penalty spot. Her short run-up was followed by a low strike into the bottom-right corner, just evading the reach of Arnold – who had dived correctly.

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A chaotic period of first-half injury time looked to bear chances for both sides, with Asllani’s free-kick nodded goalwards by Angeldahl – though Arnold was on hand with a fine save to maintain the scoreline. Angeldahl was involved moments later, threading a through ball into Blackstenius, but she was forced wide and crashed her strike into the side netting. Following a free-kick of their own, Australia looked capable of bringing themselves level through Kerr’s strike from the edge of the box, but Musovic was once more able to deny the forward.

Within minutes of play resuming, the Scandinavian side were evidently keen to double their lead. Outmuscling Foord in the centre of the park, Rubsensson was able to power forward on the counterattack. Despite laying the ball off to Blackstenius on the right, the move would fail to come to fruition as the Arsenal striker’s low effort was blocked by Hunt.

Yet as the hour mark arrived, the Swedes found their breakthrough. Another rapid counterattack allowed Asllani to slide Blackstenius through on goal, but as she was forced wide by Hunt, she opted to tee up Asllani – who was waiting patiently on the edge of the penalty area. Her first-time effort proved to be unsaveable, rifling past Arnold who simply couldn’t get a strong enough hand to the chance.

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Now finding themselves trailing by a two-goal margin, Australia’s desperation seemed to grow. A free-kick delivery whipped in from the left was allowed to pinball through the penalty area – and while Kerr was able to pick out Polkinghorne, the defender’s effort was kept out well by Musovic.

But despite a late flurry of chances for the Matildas, every chance was squandered – either blown well wide of the target or delivered straight into the grateful gloves of Musovic. As a result, Sweden maintain their 100% record in third-place finals, cruising to a relatively comfortable victory against Australia in Brisbane. While the Blågult would have fancied their chances in the final, they’ll be relieved to be heading home with something to show for their month in the Southern Hemisphere.

A second consecutive defeat is disappointing for Australia, who will undoubtedly feel disappointed after such a bright start to this FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign. Despite finding themselves without the talismanic Sam Kerr for much of the tournament, the Matildas reached the final four – drawing huge TV audiences and inspiring an entire nation in the process.