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September 13, 2000
Brazil defeats Sweden 2-0
At 11.30 IST, the Millenium Games kicked off, with the first two soccer matches in the women's section.
Australia takes on Germany in Canberra, in what is seen as a tough opener for the host country. The two teams are in Group E along with Sweden and Brazil, who are simultaneously playing their own pool encounter in Melbourne, at the MCG.
As per custom, all matches of one pool take place simultaneously, to forestall the possibility of fixing.
At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Brazilian senhoritas are turning on the samba against Sweden.
The Brazilians dominated from kick off with superb ball skills, tight short passes and speedy runs along either flank, stretching and opening up the Swedish defence at will.
Sweden relied on scrambling defensive play and breakaway runs to try and stay in the game. While the Swedish girls in the first half did decently in midfield, they never really managed to penetrate Brazilian space, contenting themselves mostly with long range shots that soared over the crossbar.
Brazil predictably went into the lead, in the 20th minute of the first half, when Katia produced a sizzling run down the right flank, then crossed into the centre. Fellow forward Pretinha sold a dummy to her Swedish marker, racing around behind her back to meet the cross and slot it neatly past diving Swedish goalkeeper Caroline Joensson, to register the first goal of the Millenium Games.
There was a suspicion though that Pretinha was offside when she met the cross. In the event, Sweden responded with a swift counter attack that produced the first clear look at goal, with , Ljungberg getting a clear shot. However, the Swedish forward only managed to thump the ball straight into the chest of Brazil goal-keeper Andreia.
Four minutes later, Sweden broke up the Brazilian rhythm again when Andersson made a run to the top of the box, then passed right to Nordlund making a flank run. The latter, however, shot to the right of the upright, to squander Sweden's second straight chance.
Brazil, after the early goal, slowed things down and was seemingly content to play out the remainder of the first half. A seemingly dangerous ploy, with Sweden finding lots of space and freedom to make the running.
Sweden took advantage with some possession play and even managed a corner in the dying minutes of the first half, but the Brazilian defence scrambled it out of the danger zone.
There was also an opportunity towards the end of the first half, when a loose ball was floated by a Swedish midfielder, with three Swedish forwards all offside. The flag, though, remained down, and Sweden squandered the chance with a shocker of a try at goal.
Sweden, down 1-0 at the lemon break, came out swinging in the second half, forcing Andreia to dive and save inside the opening minute with a stinging drive from the top of the box. That seemed to set the tone, with Sweden attacking furiously early on.
Brazil weathered that spell, then gradually played itself back into the game, relying on short passes and stabbing runs to upset the Swedish rhythm.
As the Brazilian game kicked into gear, the Swedes were forced to change the gameplan, defending frantically and relying on breakaway runs and long aerial passes to try and get themselves back into the game.
Brazil surgically sliced the Swedish defence open, Pretinha providing the first hint of trouble when she grabbed a loose ball from the midfield and chipped over the top for Katia to go one on one with Joensson under the Swedish bar. Katia shot straight at the diving keeper, though.
Immediately thereafter, a goalmouth melee off a corner kick gave Sweden a great chance, but like a few others on the day, it was wasted by poor ball controlling and a weak finishing kick.
At the other end, Sissi showed how it was done when she controlled superbly inside the area, then passed forward to Formiga for the shot. The ball richocheted, and Katia poked it into the goal with an educated toe, to have Brazil 2-0 up in the 70th minute.
Almost immediately, Sissi, having a great game on the day, released a lovely through ball from the midfield to set Pretinha away. With only the goalkeeper to beat, though, the Brazilian forward shot wide.
The final few minutes proved scrappy, with Brazil easing back on the throttle and Sweden slipping into the resulting space to cause a few alarms. However, Andreia had a brilliant day under the bar, and that was pretty much that.
It was evident that Sweden does not have the nous to control play for extended periods of time. For another, while the Brazilian defensive line showed signs that it could crack under sustained pressure, the senhoritas also showed they had the ball skills, and even mileage in their legs, to get themselves out of tight spots. And on the plus side, the Brazilian frontline has a lethal look to it, with Pretinha playing havoc with her sharp, stabbing runs and Sissi initiating lovely plays from the midfield.
Mail Sports Editor
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