Ahead of the football tournament in Tokyo, Sweden were being mentioned as the dark horse.
After beating the reigning World Champions USA 3-0 in the opener, things changed. The performance from the squad in yellow and blue turned the spotlights on Peter Gerhardsson and co more seriously.
Back to back Olympic finalists
Sweden won a silver medal at the Rio Games in 2016. Back then, no one believed that the Scandinavian team could reach the final. But they did, and that gave them the belief that they could compete for a medal at the 2019 World Cup.
Sweden earned the bronze medal after a strong performance against the Lionesses, winning 2-1.
Already after that tournament, their focus turned to Tokyo and the Olympics. The goal was clear – it was time to go for the gold and most importantly, it was time to dare to say it out loud. The management and the players would not settle for anything less than a final in Tokyo. They were going to be there to bring home the gold medal.
Speaking to Her Football Hub back in May, manager Peter Gerhardsson said: “What determines if you win or lose a game is the players. It’s them and their abilities, their qualities, and their decision-making during a game that will decide if we win or if we lose. You have to remember that.”
Gerhardsson and his squad have lived up to the expectations. Today they’ll play Canada in the Tokyo Olympics final.
Road to the Olympic final
Canada started their Olympic campaign against hosts Japan on July 21st with a draw. A goal each from the teams – where Christine Sinclair’s goal secured an important point in the opener.
Three days later, Canada earned three points by beating Chile 2-1. Goalscorer Janine Beckie hit the back of the net twice in this game.
On July 27th, Canada drew vs Great Britain 1-1. For the majority of the game, they had the lead due to a rather unorganised defensive display from Team GB. Adriana Leon put Canada in the lead, nine minutes into the second half.
Heading into the quarter-finals, Canada faced Brazil, where a goalless 90 minutes plus extra time led to penalties.
The Canadians were the stronger side, managing a 4-3 win through the penalty shootout. In the semi-final, Canada faced the US. A team they hadn’t managed to win against in 20 years. In the 75th minute, Chelsea’s Jessie Fleming was given the opportunity to change that. Canada were awarded a penalty and Fleming made no mistake from the spot.
Sweden has won every game in the tournament so far. The US was their first opponent, and as mentioned above, the performance gave them a clear 3-0 win. This was followed by a very exciting game vs Australia, where the end result was written 4-2. Last group stage game, vs New Zealand, Sweden won 2-0. Having scored 9 goals in the group stage; Sweden’s goalscorers were; Stina Blackstenius (3), Lina Hurtig (2), Fridolina Rolfö (2), Madelen Janogy (1), and Anna Anvegård (1).
Entering the knock-out stage, Sweden got to play the hosts’ Japan. When 90 minutes were played, Sweden winning 3-1 with goals scored by Magdalena Eriksson, Stina Blackstenius, and Kosovare Asllani, the yellow and blue team, was the only team in the quarter-final that hadn’t been forced to play extra time.
Australia awaited Sweden in the semi-final, where the Matildas’, after being disallowed a goal just before the halftime whistle; managed to push Sweden hard. A goal from Fridolina Rolfö just at the beginning of the second half got the Swedes through to their back-to-back final in the Olympics.
Team stats ahead of gold medal match
On average per 90 minutes, Canada’s xG is 1.16 heading into their first big international final. Per game, they’ve had 7.2 shots, 25% on target. 26.2 positional attacks, 16.8 with shots. 2 counterattacks, 1 with shots, and 14.4 crosses with 34.7 % of them being accurate.
They have been in 75.4 offensive duels, successful in 37.9% of them. More success in their defensive duels – 74.6 in total with success in 66% of them, 48.6 interceptions, and 17.6 clearances.
Source for stats on average per 90 minutes in the Olympic Football tournament in Tokyo: WyScout.
With an xG of 1.64 on average per 90 minutes, Sweden’s track record in this tournament with goal-scoring is better than Canada’s. Sweden have had 13 shots on average per game, 43.1 % on target. They’ve had 29 positional attacks with 28.3% of them leading to a shot while they have had 3 counterattacks, 53.3% of them with a shot. 14.6 crosses, 42.5% accurate.
They’ve been in fewer offensive duels than the final opponent; 61.6 in total with success in 35.1% of them. Defensive duels, less than Canada, 68.2 in total but with equal success 66.9%, 44.8 interceptions, and 14.4 clearances.
Source for stats on average per 90 minutes in the Olympic Football tournament in Tokyo: WyScout
Players to watch
Several. But keep an eye on the goalscorers so far – the captain and Canada legend Christine Sinclair, ice-cold penalty taker Jessie Fleming and Janine Beckie, double goalscorer against Chile.
Also several. Filippa Angeldahl from BK Häcken in the Damallsvenskan is the only Swedish player that so far has started every game in this tournament. The midfielder has been an important piece of the Swedish midfield, alongside team captain Caroline Seger in a double pivot.
Stina Blackstenius and Fridolina Rolfö must be mentioned here as well. Blackstenius with four goals so far in total and Rolfö with three, both have been crucial for Sweden in their wins leading up to the final. Barcelona fans can stop worrying about if Rolfö will fit into their team or not. She will.
That Blackstenius might be getting offers from abroad after a massive performance in Tokyo, should not be a surprise to anyone.
Stephanie Labbé (GK)
Vanessa Gilles, Ashley Lawrence, Kadeisha Buchanan Allysha Chapman
Jessie Fleming, Christine Sinclair, Desiree Scott, Quinn
Janine Beckie, Nichelle Prince
Hedvig Lindahl (GK)
Hanna Glas, Amanda Ilestedt, Nathalie Björn, Magdalena Eriksson
Filippa Angeldahl, Caroline Seger, Kosovare Asllani
Sofia Jakobsson, Stina Blackstenius, Fridolina Rolfö