Sweden beat Mexico to Group F champions spot 9
Sweden thumped Mexico 3-0 on Wednesday, overpowering their opponents after a scoreless first half in a result that means both teams advance to the World Cup last 16 at the expense of defending champions Germany.
Sweden finished top of Group F on goal difference, with both teams on six points ahead of Germany and South Korea on three apiece, after the champions went down 2-0 in a shock result in Kazan.
After pressing hard for most of the first half and wasting numerous chances, Sweden finally found the net when left-back Ludwig Augustinsson charged up the field in the 50th minute and angled home a left-footed volley.
Twelve minutes later, captain Andreas Granqvist kept his concentration in the face of deafening boos and whistles from the Mexican fans to blast a penalty into the top left corner after Hector Moreno had brought down Marcus Berg.
Mexico’s misery was complete when the ball trickled in off the leg of Edson Alvarez for a tame own goal on 74 minutes.
The Mexicans were a shadow of the team that had beaten Germany and South Korea and had pundits speaking of them as potential world champions.
Needing only a draw to be sure of advancing, they somehow managed to reach the break on level terms after surviving a Swedish aerial bombardment and a VAR review.
The game was packed with incident from the opening whistle, with Mexican midfielder Jesus Gallardo booked within seconds of the start for misjudging an aerial challenge on Ola Toivonen.
The Swedes were guilty of wasteful finishing in the opening 45 minutes, with Emil Forsberg in particular blazing several shots over the bar.
Berg posed repeated problems for the Mexican defence, first flicking wide with his back to goal, and later firing a well-struck shot that was acrobatically turned over the bar by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. On the stroke of half-time, he fired into the side-netting after a swift Swedish break from defence.
Mexico had an anxious moment when Javier Hernandez appeared to use his arm to control the ball in his penalty area, but after a VAR review the referee awarded a corner.
But the Mexicans also threatened several times to score. Carlos Vela shot just wide after a pass from Hirving Lozano, saw another effort go over the bar and hit a third into the arms of Robin Olsen.
Mexico pressed hard after falling behind, with Javier Hernandez heading over from a corner and later firing a cross that flew perilously across the face of the Swedish goal.
Hector Herrera had a long range shot fumbled, then saved by Robin Olsen, and Lozano struck a low shot into the keeper’s arms in the final frenetic minutes.
Mexico’s desperation proved unnecessary, however, as South Korea gave them a helping hand to the last 16 with a stunning 2-0 win over the holders Germany.
But without an improvement on this performance they risk falling once again at the stage where they have been knocked out in the last six World Cups.