Sweden’s first appearance at a World Cup since 2006 ended in a 1-0 victory as South Korea were defeated in a lifeless game.
Both sides pride themselves on a defence that is hard to break down and it showed as chances were hard to come by.
It was a VAR-overturned penalty that Andreas Granqvist converted that gave Sweden the win and put them joint-top of Group F with Mexico.
After the Mexicans beat Germany on Sunday, both sides knew this game was must-win for any hope of progressing further in the completion. That led to neither team wanting to risk too much so attacking flair was rare to see in the Russian sun.
Sweden, who were without Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his international retirement, had the better of the game and had two good chances to take the lead in the first half. After just 21 minutes, Korea were thankful for their goalkeeper as Cho Hyun-woo provided an incredible piece of goalkeeping.
Ola Toivonen didn’t impress during a loan spell at Sunderland in 2015, but he showed great vision to slip in Marcus Berg with a good pass. The ex-West Bromwich Albion striker should have found the back of the net from close range, but instead, Hyun-woo did well to make a miraculous block and keep the scores goalless.
At the end of the first half, Celtic’s Mikael Lustig nearly created the opener with a superb cross. The right-back’s delivery was perfect for Viktor Claesson to attack, but the winger saw his header fly well off-target from the penalty spot.
In the second half, the Swedes continued to be wasteful with any chances. Emil Forsberg came inside onto his right foot from twenty yards, but couldn’t even work the goalkeeper as the ball flew into the stand behind the goal.
Korea didn’t manage a single shot on target during the game and you could forgive them for thinking they would get away with a point, but VAR had a hand in denying them that. It was Claesson who went down under the sliding challenge of Kim Min-woo and despite huge Sweden appeals, the referee did not give the penalty. Minutes later, a VAR Penalty Review changed his mind and Sweden had the perfect chance from twelve yards.
With players such as Berg, Toivonen and Seb Larsson in the squad, it was peculiar to see Granqvist step up to take the penalty but the Sweden captain proved the doubters wrong. It was a classy spot-kick that sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and it meant Sweden have won their opening game at a World Cup for the first time since 1958.