Sweden booked their passage to the Women’s World Cup knockout stages by thrashing a vastly-improved Thailand 5-1.
Having suffered a record 13-0 loss in their opening Group F game against the United States, Thailand were far more competitive and were cheered on by a boisterous section of the 9,354 crowd, the lowest of the tournament so far.
But they could not live with Sweden’s superior technique, fitness and height as a team ranked 25 places above them opened the scoring after six minutes via Linda Sembrant’s close-range header.
Kosovare Asllani tucked in after neat footwork for the 2016 Olympic Games finalists before Fridolina Rolfo’s rocket from the edge of the box made it 3-0 at the break.
After Thailand battled courageously in the second half, there was a further goal for the Swedes when Lina Hurtig headed in.
But Thailand got their deserved reward when captain Kanjana Sung-Ngoen scored their first goal of the tournament after breaking clear to fire in and send their small section of fans wild.
There was still time for Sweden to reply after Elin Rubensson smashed home a penalty, which was awarded by the video assistant referee following Natthakarn Chinwong’s handball.
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Although there were a few errors for the goals, Thai goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing, one of four changes after the humiliation against the US, made several smart saves. One from substitute Madelen Janogy’s fiercely-struck shot left Boonsing with a bloody nose.
It was symptomatic of a resilient and energetic display from the Thai side, largely drawn from their homeland and which did not have a domestic league for the whole of 2018.
Appearing at their second World Cup, they could still achieve their aim of reaching the second round should they beat Chile in their final group game on Thursday and potentially claim a spot for one of the best third-placed teams.
‘It meant so much’ – what they said
Thailand coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian:“This goal meant a lot to us. It’s a difficult goal and playing a great team like Sweden, it meant so much.
“It meant that all of our preparation paid off. This one goal made us laugh, made us smile and makes us happy.
“Our defeat in the last game was massive. Yes, we were disappointed. But even if we score one today, we made some success. Chile will be difficult next but getting a point at this World Cup is what we want to do.”
Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson:“I’ve never won a match before playing it and I never will. You prepare for a number of potential scenarios and then you have to play it. Sometimes you have to wait to get a result like Chile, but today was a little easier, we got a set-piece goal.
“The USA match will be different, but it will be an important match for us naturally.”
Earliest and latest goals – the stats
- Sweden have progressed beyond the group stages in seven of their eight appearances at the Women’s World Cup.
- No team has conceded more goals in a single Women’s World Cup tournament than Thailand’s tally of 18 so far this year. Argentina conceded the same amount in 2007.
- This was only the second time Sweden have scored five or more goals in a Women’s World Cup match.
- Thailand have faced 75 shots, and 32 on target, in their two World Cup games this year. They have had seven in response.
- Linda Sembrant’s opener for Sweden was the earliest goal scored at this year’s Women’s World Cup so far, at five minutes 24 seconds.
- Elin Rubensson’s penalty was the latest scored at the tournament so far, at 95 minutes 10 seconds.
In the final round of Group F fixtures, Sweden face the USA – in what could be top-spot decider – while Thailand take on Chile.
Both matches take place at 20:00 BST on Thursday, 20 June.