Sweden made a victorious return to the World Cup after a 12-year hiatus on Monday (June 18), beating South Korea 1-0 in Moscow. The game was a scrappy affair with 43 total fouls but Sweden were undoubtedly the better side with 59 per cent of the possession and 15 shots to South Korea's four. Sweden skipper Andreas Granqvist's 65th minute penalty made the difference. Sweden go into their next match against Germany on Saturday holding the edge, while South Korea have it all to do get out of Group F.
Here's the lowdown on the game:
1. The goals
Sweden 1 (Andreas Granqvist 65th) South Korea 0
2. The wow moment
There was little in this clash to recommend to the lover of the beautiful game. A few decent build-up plays and deft touches here and there from the likes of Spurs man Son Heung Min but the most remarkable thing about the game was the number of fouls - 43 in total, the most in this World Cup so far.
Sweden likely also would not have won any fans beyond their countrymen in the stands with several instances of gratuitous time wasting and cynical fouls. To be fair to the Swedes though, they were never expected to dazzle in Russia and they will only care that they have the three points in the bag.
Without the beautiful game, it was left to beautiful man and South Korean goalkeeper Jo Hyeon Woo to provide a measure of wow with his K-Pop worthy looks and hairstyle.
3. THE TALKING POINT
Another game, another penalty, another VAR decision. Granqvist's penalty was the fifth scored and seventh given at this World Cup so far.
Whether football fans like it or not, VAR looks to be here to stay. But the question will be how often the referee deploys VAR in a match. His judgement will still be crucial - deploy VAR for every little call and the game loses its flow. Be too conservative with VAR and he runs the risk of being excoriated for mistakes where VAR could have made the difference.
Today's referee Joel Aguilar got the balance just right. The VAR review established that Sweden's penalty was fair and Aguilar did not bow to the pressure from the desperate South Koreans for a Swedish handball in stoppage time.
4. THE STAR
Andreas Granqvist. The 33-year-old centre-back defended solidly at the back and with the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders kept his cool to dispatch the winning penalty.
5. WHAT THE RESULT MEANS
Sweden put themselves in a strong position to move on to the knockout stages with Group F wide open after Germany's shock loss to Mexico. Meanwhile, South Korea will have to regroup and produce significantly better performances against Mexico and Germany to have any chance of prolonging their campaign.
On the weight of today's showing however, that may be a tough ask.