Sweden stunned USA for the second Olympics in succession in Tokyo
But today’s 3-0 win was very different to their ultra-defensive 2016 triumph
Hedvig Lindahl and two-goal Stina Blackstenius told us about their attacking approach
When Sweden beat USA at the last Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, Hedvig Lindahl was the heroine. How could she be otherwise, having saved a penalty from Alex Morgan after spending 120 minutes helping repel wave after wave of American attacks?
Today in Tokyo, the 38-year-old kept a clean sheet against the back-to-back FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winners and made history in doing so, becoming the first Swede to appear in five Olympic editions. But no-one was talking about Lindahl, and the veteran keeper couldn’t have cared less.
Instead, everyone was raving about the adventurous approach the Swedes applied to dismantling a team that, prior to today, had gone two years and 23 matches unbeaten under coach Vlatko Andonovski.
It reflected the evolution of a side notoriously slammed as “cowards” by Hope Solo for their defensive tactics in Rio, with Megan Rapinoe acknowledging on this occasion – in typically frank style: “We got our asses kicked.”
“You can see how we’ve developed [since 2016],” enthused Lindahl to FIFA.com. “The coaches have done some great work training us on this way of playing, and the most important thing is that it’s bringing results.”
The prime beneficiaries of this more expansive style are, of course, those at the other end of the pitch to Lindahl. Stina Blacktenius scored two goals today and should, by her own admission, have had a couple more. So, how does it feel to play in a team that has become so adept at creating chances?
“It’s the best,” she said, beaming. “I really can’t imagine a better team to play in. I’m just really proud to be a part of it, and proud of the way we are playing.
“We have developed our game, improved the way we play. We have so much quality in every individual player, and each of us brings something different to the others.”
Lindahl, as well as being a five-time Olympian, is also a veteran of five Women’s World Cups. As such, she has experienced and enjoyed her fair share of memorable Swedish triumphs.
But given the quality of her team’s play in Tokyo, and the calibre of their opposition, was this the most impressive performance she had been involved in?
“The best ever? Well, that’s tough,” she said. “To win like we did against the US, creating so many chances, is not normal. It’s very special.
“Having said that, it’s a group-stage game. I think the games that give you most satisfaction always come later in tournaments. And we have a lot more matches to come before we can think of reaching our goals in this tournament.”