Sweden are the bronze medal winners of the 2019 Women’s World Cup as they beat England 2-1 in Nice. All the goals came in the first half and VAR once again played it’s part to deny Ellen White a seventh goal of the tournament.
The game, if anything, was another demonstration of the utter needlessness of the third place play-off. Both teams were clearly physically tired as well as mentally exhausted, with England paying the price for that early on.
It took just 11 minutes for Kosovare Asllani to fire Sweden into the lead when she capitalised on a very poor clearance from Alex Greenwood. Asllani smashed it low and hard, Carly Telford got a touch to it but couldn’t stop the impressive Swede from scoring her third goal of the tournament.
In reality, that’s been the story of the tournament for England. Up until the semi-final stage, the opposition teams were unable to make the Lionesses pay for their constant errors. As the competition progressed, England faced better and better opposition, they were made to pay in the semi-final against USA and then once again this afternoon against Sweden. If Phil Neville and his team want to win the European Championships in 2021, those mistakes are something that simply MUST be rectified.
Eleven minutes after they took the lead, Sweden doubled it as Sofia Jakobsson popped up with a great bit of play. A nice bit of interplay with Stina Blackstenius on the left wing before Jakobsson cut inside and curled a lovely effort inside the far post. Sweden 2-0 up and absolutely cruising by an England team that simply hadn’t shown up.
In fact, it was that second goal that eventually did force the Lionesses to wake up as they finally started to show some offensive intent. Fran Kirby seemed to be the most likely as she began to show glimpses of the quality player we all know she is. In fact, she was the one who would pull England back into the game as just after the half hour mark, Kirby drove into the box and fired a fantastic low effort into the bottom corner.
Less than two minutes later, England thought they were level when Ellen White controlled the ball in the box, beat the defender and slid the ball past Hedvig Lindahl. Originally, it didn’t look like there was anything wrong with it and there was no apparent reason why it should be ruled out. However, replays showed the ball hit White’s arm as she controlled it, VAR reviewed it and the referee decided not to award the goal.
The decision seemed very harsh to me as White controlled the ball with her chest and it simply grazed her arm as it rolled down her body to the floor. It also seemed to me as though it may have struck the arm of the defender as well as White, but the referee saw it differently and awarded a foul. Had VAR not have been in operation at this tournament, Ellen White would have a record eight goals.
In the second half, England looked a lot better as they tried to create chances to get back into the game. Perhaps the best of those chances came right at the death when Lucy Bronze hammered a half volley towards goal from the edge of the box. The keeper was out of her net and already beaten, but Nilla Fischer was there to head the ball off the line to deny England an equaliser.
After having announced her retirement from professional football yesterday, England veteran Karen Carney came on late in the second half. She entered the field for the last time as a footballer with her side behind on the scoresheet and with time very much against them. Unfortunately, she couldn’t inspire her side to victory. It was a special moment nonetheless, the Lionesses just won’t be the same without Karen Carney – she really is an England great.
England return home as beaten semi-finalists once more, only this time they won’t have the bronze medal as a consolation. This, as Neville said repeatedly this week, was a game the Lionesses really wanted to win. Despite the loss, despite not reaching the final, we’re still very proud of our girls and we cannot wait for the Euro’s when they hit British shores in two years time.
Maybe then, football really will come home.