Some of the Sweden team must have felt they wanted the Olympic Stadium pitch to open and swallow them up come the final whistle. Hosts Brazil, backed by a vociferous crowd in Rio de Janeiro and led by the peerless Marta, had demolished their European opponents 5-1 in a devastating display of attacking prowess. Instead of sinking to their knees, the Swedes grabbed each other, huddled close and gave some stirring words of encouragement after the Group E clash at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.
“What can you say after a game like that?” Lotta Schelin, Sweden’s goalscorer, told FIFA.comafter the game. “We were telling each other, and Pia [Sundhage, Sweden coach] told us too, to stay strong and keep our cool. It’s not an easy situation. We just have to help each other to be able to go forward and move on to the next game because it’s a pretty important match. We’re still in the tournament, we still have a good chance to go through and we just have to leave this behind.”
It is an anomalous result, the heaviest defeat for Sweden at either the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament or FIFA Women’s World Cup™, a particularly significant statistic considering the Blagult have been present at every edition of both tournaments. Next up in Group E is a game against another stalwart of the women’s game: China PR.
“We’ve got to go forward and focus on that match,” Schelin said. “It’s going to be a special situation, we’ve got to try and recover and we’re travelling to Brasilia as well. First of all, we have to watch out for our bodies, to get our strength back. We’re going to talk about China tomorrow and the day after that, focus and see what we can do to beat them.”
We’re still in the tournament, we still have a good chance to go through and we just have to leave this behind.
Schelin’s wisdom is a product of her wealth of top-level experience, with the striker having seen and done it all at this tournament among many others. Of the 21 games Sweden have played in the history of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, she has taken part in 13, appearing at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 before her selection for Rio.
“I try to pass on my experience,” Schelin smiled. “It’s special, the time has passed so fast. It’s amazing that I’m at my fourth Olympic tournament. The youngsters are here with a lot of heart. We have some girls with experience, we just try to pass that through to them.”
The Swedes now wave goodbye to Rio after a spell in the unique bubble of the Athlete’s Village, save for a day trip to Cristo Redentor.
“It’s been really great in Rio,” Schelin beamed. “It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve never been in the village for so long [at past Olympics], and never played two important games at the same time as staying in the village. It’s been really great to do that. Of course in a competitive way of seeing it, it’s harder. It takes a lot of strength to go to the dining room and back, it’s a lot of space, a lot of distance to go. It takes energy too, but that’s the same for everyone. I’m really happy to have been in Rio for so long and really liked the Olympic experience.”
That team huddle, with Pia Sundhage’s squad sharing words of encouragement, embodied a spirit that was evident in Schelin’s parting words, laced with confidence after such a potentially crushing defeat.
“The Cristo Redentor statue was amazing and cool for us to see,” Schelin grinned. “We’re going to try to come back.”