Sweden’s comeback win, Netherlands edge Portugal – Equalizer Soccer

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Day 4 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup saw Sweden play South Africa, the Netherlands face Portugal, and France take on Jamaica.

Slept through it and need to know what the big story is? This is what happened on the fourth day of the World Cup.

Your bite-sized recap of Day 4 of the 2023 Women’s World Cup

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Sweden 2, South Africa 1

The Big Story: In their second World Cup, South Africa looked to get their first win in group play and after scoring the game’s opening goal, it appeared that might just happen. Sweden’s persistence paid off in the end though and they were able to claw their way even in the match, and then ahead.

The Big Moment: In the 90th minute, with the game tied 1-1, Amanda Ilestedt was able to convert the service from the corner with a well-placed header to give Sweden the lead.

What it means: South Africa might not have held the possession numbers, only retaining the ball 30% of the time, but they were able to limit the Swedish chances by efficiently cutting off the crosses in the box with quick clearances. They were also able to use the explosiveness of their forwards, including Racing Louisville’s Thembi Kgatlana, to have a number of threatening chances. They finished the first half with only one shot less than Sweden.

South Africa scored their second ever World Cup goal to go up 1-0 against Sweden minutes into the second half. Kgatlana’s close range shot was parried by the Swedish goalkeeper into the path of Hildah Magaia, who slotted it home. Unfortunately, after an own goal midway through the second half, Sweden pulled even. Sweden then took the lead in the last minute of regulation. South Africa will need to clean up some of those defensive errors as they move through group play.

Sweden’s gameplan coming into the game appeared to be getting wide and sending in crosses towards the goal. They truly stuck to the plan, sending in cross after cross. After going down early in the second half and considering the efficiency of the tactics deployed in the first half, it was surprising to see Sweden stick to it. They ended the match with 15 shots and 13 corners. Sweden will be looking to be a little more efficient. It will be key to have those crosses actually connect with runners and translate into shots on target moving forward.

-Taylor Vincent

Netherlands 1, Portugal 0

The Big Story: Portugal’s World Cup debut offensively was less than ideal, playing against a well organized and flourishing Netherlands squad. Nevertheless, the game was decided by just one goal as the 2019 World Cup runner-ups struggled to score.

The Big Moment: VAR overturns the call on the field of offsides and the opening goal stands. In the 13th minute, a Sherida Spitse corner found the head of Stefanie van der Gragt at the far post. The veteran was able to head it back across the goal towards the opposite post. Jill Roord was called offside on the play, but after review, the goal was awarded because Roord did not touch the ball or interfere in the goalkeeper’s ability to stop the shot.

What it means: Portugal seemed to struggle against the Dutch 3-5-2, especially getting through the depth of the midfield, leading to the Netherlands having more possession. Portugal did have chances to be dangerous, with a few set pieces in the Dutch half, but the Netherlands easily cleared the balls sent in, and Portugal ended the match with only two shots.

On the defensive side, the Dutch scored and continued to look dangerous on set pieces so the debutants will need to tighten that up if they want to advance in this tournament. Portugal did make good halftime adjustments defensively that kept the Netherlands from scoring another goal. Portuguese goalkeeper Inês Pereira had a strong performance too, making some great saves to limit the damage of the Oranje Leeuwinnen.

The Netherlands showed off their ability to build through their midfield and utilize their three-back’s impressive long-ball ability, the variety keeping Portugal’s defense on their heels. While they looked dangerous on set pieces for the most part they had some golden chances that should’ve been converted.

Cleaning up the small things will help the Netherlands against the United States on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final. On the defensive side, there were times where Portugal looked dangerous in transition led by Portugal’s Jessica Silva’s pace and finesse. Silva was often alone with no support because Portugal chose not to send many players forward, worried about the speed and numbers of the Dutch attack. The lack of numbers attacking meant the Dutch backline was able to respond and react.

One thing to watch for is a potential injury to veteran forward Lineth Beerenstein. The Juventus winger went down in the 83rd minute after a hard tackle from behind and needed to be subbed out after getting helped off the pitch. The Dutch are already missing star forward Vivianne Miedema due to her ACL tear last fall, so losing Beerenstein would hurt their attack even more.

-Taylor Vincent

France, Jamaica TBD

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