The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) came to Sweden’s rescue as it was put to use in awarding the Swedes a penalty which led to the winning goal against South Korea on Monday.
Joel Aguilar had initially dismissed Swedish pleas for a second-half spot-kick, but for the second time at the 2018 World Cup VAR came into play and after reviewing Kim Minwoo’s tackle on Viktor Claesson the referee deemed it was a foul.
Captain Andreas Granqvist calmly converted the penalty to earn his team valuable three points in Nizhny Novgorod and put them above Germany in an intriguing Group F following Mexico’s stunning 1-0 victory over the holders Sunday.
Competing at a World Cup for the first time since 2006, Sweden deserved to win a match which was peppered with more fouls than flair.
Sweden, who knocked out Italy in the playoffs to reach Russia 2018, had chances to go ahead before Granqvist’s 65th-minute penalty but were denied by a brilliant goalkeeping display by Kim Seungguy.
Indeed, the highlight of the first half was a fantastic save from Kim at point-blank range from Marcus Berg.
The Sweden striker should have scored to capitalise on a half which consisted of eight attempts on goal by Sweden compared to South Korea’s one.
In truth, there was more intrigue and excitement in the build up to the match, with Sweden manager Janne Andersson apologising after a member of the Sweden coaching staff was caught watching a South Korea training session. There had been a misunderstanding, he said, with his scout believing the session was open to all.
South Korea’s manager Shin Tae-yong said his players switched shirts to cause confuse because, in his words, “they might know a few of our players but it is very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians.”
Shin’s men will next face Mexico and will hope for a better result if they are to improve on their showing from four years ago when they finished bottom of their group with a solitary point.
Sweden, revelling from a first opening win at a World Cup since 1958, take on Germany on 23 June in a match where the pressure will be on the Germans.