Sweden hit from the corners | Women’s Soccer World Cup 2023

Ilestedt heads a corner to beat Italy.
Ilestedt heads in a corner to beat Italy.AMANDA PEROBELLI (REUTERS)

As if it were a Premier League match, where the fans devotedly celebrate the throw-ins but especially the corner kicks, perhaps because of the rugby culture where biting meters is getting closer to the goal, any Swedish corner in this Mundial translates into exhilaration, also in real danger. More than anything because Peter Gerhardsson’s team has signed four goals in this kind of shot, an exponential maximum in the record because it is followed, now with half, by Australia, and later, with one, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, the United United States, Nigeria, France, South Africa, Colombia and Zambia. A gold mine that could well be needed in their committed round of 16 match against the United States, which passed as second in the group behind the effervescent Netherlands.

Based in Melbourne (Australia), the Swedish team usually leaves their training sessions open to the public for half an hour and then closes the doors. It is there when Gerharsson intensifies the corrections while he proposes exercises that are as real as possible to the match situations that can be found. Although he is clear that his roadmap goes through football without too many frills, rather vertical to feed his attackers, planetary footballers like Fridolina Rolfö, Stina Blackstenius and Kosovare Asllani with balls. It happens, however, that the goal comes from a defender, by Amanda Ilestedt, who adds three, only behind the Japanese Pichichi Miyazawa, also tied with Ary Borges (Brazil), Diani (France), Sophie Haug (Norway ), Lauren James (England), Popp (Germany) and Roord (Netherlands). So many, those of the central Ilestedt —1.78 meters—, who always arrive with corner kicks.

There is no better weapon for Sweden than the corner, because in 24 shots they have scored four goals. Or, what is the same, one in six corner kicks (16.7%) end up in the net. There are four goals out of the nine that the team has signed in the World Cup (45%), a figure that explains the strength. Formula that for the moment breaks down any rival, is this: from the foot of Jonna Anderson to the forehead of Ilestedt. Especially since three have arrived in this way, one against South Africa and two against Italy. The other target, also against the selection azurra, It was the work of the Catalan Rolfö. “With set pieces we are really good, we have great headers,” Rolfö concedes. None like Ilestedt, a center back who expresses his versatility in the areas.

“It seems a bit unreal”, admits Ilestedt, named the best player of the first two duels, a footballer who has gone through Sweden, Germany and in these two courses for PSG, now a footballer for Arsenal; “The header is one of my strong points and we are working hard on it, but I didn’t expect three goals”. Rolfö is clear about it: “Jonna puts the ball where she wants and Ilestedt jumps above the rest. That, although we have shown that we can score goals in many ways, makes us more dangerous”. Jonna takes the word: “Of course I see all the players in the area, but above all I look at her because I know that if I put her in the spot, it will be impossible for the goalkeeper and rival defense.” Coach Gerhardsson joked that Ilestedt could become the World Cup’s top scorer, now with 11 goals in 66 appearances for Sweden.

It remains to be seen if the recipe also unstitches the United States, a team that has won half of the World Cups played (four of eight), a team in which players like Alex Morgan, Lindsey Loran, Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman shine, as well as by Megan Rapinoe. Names that impose, football of many carats. But Sweden refers to the corners.

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