NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia, (Reuters) – Sweden won an opening World Cup game for the first time since 1958 with a narrow 1-0 victory over South Korea yesterday, but they will need to find their shooting boots if they are to match their two other, trickier opponents in Group F.
After dominating the game but missing a string of chances, the Swedes won a 65th-minute penalty when Kim Min-woo brought down Viktor Claesson in the box. Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar initially waved the Swedes away, before being called to consult the Video Assistant Referee system.
In the second VAR-awarded penalty of the World Cup, Sweden’s 33-year-old captain Andreas Granqvist swept the ball low and left of impressive goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo.
“The VAR took a while but we are very pleased they had it … I was pretty sure,” Granqvist said of the wait.
The result brought wild celebrations from hordes of yellow-clad Swedish fans, fearful their team would draw another blank after failing to score in their last three games.
Sweden had not won an opening World Cup game since 1958, when they were the hosts and eventual runners-up. The Asians began the game brighter, harrying for the first 15 minutes against an initially sluggish-looking Sweden.
But the Scandinavians quickly found their poise, coping comfortably with Korea’s attacks despite the absence of defender Victor Lindelof through illness.
Swedish coach Janne Andersson said the penalty was “crystal-clear”, adding: “I felt the wait for VAR was unnecessary.”