Sweden manager Janne Andersson spoke of the pride in his side’s resolve after they defeated Mexico 3-0 on Wednesday to secure a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup.
Andersson’s side had suffered the heartbreak of conceding a last-gasp goal to lose to Germany on Saturday, a result that had left them in a precarious situation ahead of their final Group F game.
Instead of needing just a point to qualify they had needed to beat Mexico, who lost their 100 per cent record. But they rose to the occasion and left their manager paying tribute to their spirit.
“We really work as a team, the entire team,” Andersson said. “We want to do everything to give our players the chance to succeed on the pitch.
“I am so incredibly proud and almost moved and so touched by the thought of how we performed in the entire pitch.”
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After pressing hard for most of the first half and wasting numerous chances, Sweden finally found the net when left-back Ludwig Augustinsson charged up the field in the 50th minute and angled home a left-footed volley.
Twelve minutes later, captain Andreas Granqvist kept his concentration in the face of deafening boos and whistles from the Mexican fans to blast a penalty into the top left corner after Hector Moreno had brought down Al Ain striker Marcus Berg.
Mexico’s misery was complete when the ball trickled in off the leg of Edson Alvarez for a tame own goal on 74 minutes. Sweden finished top of Group F on goal difference, with both teams on six points ahead of South Korea and Germany on three apiece, after the champions went down 2-0 in a shock result in Kazan.
Andersson acknowledged he had been confident that the game was effectively over when they won their spot-kick that doubled their lead.
“You can never be sure of anything 100 per cent in sports, but I know he’s really good at taking penalties, so I did think there was a high likelihood he would score,” Andersson said.
Granqvist duly hammered it home and an own goal made it 3-0 before news filtered through of Germany’s collapse, but despite the previous run-in with German officials after Toni Kroos had scored in stoppage time on Saturday to inflict a 2-1 defeat on the Swedes, Andersson said their elimination did not give him any joy.
“Not in a million years. I don’t work that way,” he stated categorically. “You play a game, you shake hands afterwards and you wish everyone well for the next game.
“This is something I dreamed of. The insane thing is I really had this feeling that I would score at the World Cup,” Augustinsson told reporters.
Granqvist, who also scored from the spot against South Korea, said: “What a performance we did – it could have been 5-0 or 6-0.”
The Mexicans were a shadow of the team that had won their first two games and had pundits speaking of them as potential world champions.
Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio said he had learned a lot from his side’s setback.
Osorio’s team came unstuck against their Scandinavian rivals’ more direct approach in Yekaterinburg. “I respect Sweden’s style of play, but I don’t agree with it,” he said. “My sin was to be a purist, it’s taught me a lot of lessons. We need to find a middle way to stop opponents in the air but still play our own style.
“Sweden are very strong in the air and very good at defending so we have learnt a lot today.
“But I insist, we are through because we have beaten Germany and South Korea.”