Fri, Jun 29, 2018 - Page 16 News List

FIFA WORLD CUP: Sweden crush Mexico 3-0 to secure a berth in last 16

AFP, YEKATERINBURG, Russia

Sweden on Wednesday surged into the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup with a deserved 3-0 victory over Mexico, who still qualified ahead of Germany after the holders’ loss to South Korea.

Sweden went through to the knockout rounds as the unlikely winners of Group F, taking beaten Mexico with them.

Second-half goals from defenders Ludwig Augustinsson and Andreas Granqvist, from the penalty spot, plus a comical own-goal were the reward for a physical display from Sweden, who only made it to Russia by beating Italy in the playoffs.

Mexico entered the game at the Yekaterinburg Arena in the driver’s seat in a group where all four teams, including South Korea, could qualify, but they appeared the more nervous.

It took them less than 30 seconds to make their mark on Sweden, with Jesus Gallardo earning a yellow card for clattering into Ola Toivonen almost straight from kickoff.

Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa handled outside the box and then flapped at the resulting free-kick.

On 12 minutes, Marcus Berg clipped wide from close range with a bicycle-kick.

Mexico, who had the overwhelming support inside the stadium, should have taken the lead on 15 minutes, when Carlos Vela found himself in space on the edge of the box. His bending left-footer shaved the post, catapulting a few sombreros off the heads of Mexico fans as they expectantly sprang to their feet.

They were up again on 30 minutes, when referee Nestor Pitana took a look at a video replay after the ball hit Mexico striker Javier Hernandez on the arm in the box.

After lingering at the pitch-side monitor, then going back for a second glance, Pitana ruled it no penalty — Mexico celebrated as if they had scored a goal.

Sweden’s players and coach Janne Andersson were furious, and understandably — Hernandez appeared to move his arm toward the ball.

Sweden, with their greater physicality, were on top, but Mexico were dangerous on the break.

They badly needed a goal and five minutes after halftime they deservedly got it, defender Augustinsson popping up from leftback to volley in.

There was more drama on the hour, as Hector Moreno brought down Berg in the box and skipper Granqvist held his nerve in front of the massed Mexico ranks to bury his penalty.

Plastic beer cups rained down before Mexico defender Edson Alvarez compounded a miserable evening with a 74th-minute own-goal when he miskicked past Ochoa.

Mexico will need to pick themselves up quickly if they are to go beyond the last 16 for the first time since 1986 and end a run of six consecutive second-round defeats.

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