While both teams are disappointed not to have made the final, England and Sweden will still be motivated to take third place at the Women’s World Cup in Saturday’s consolation game. England is the favorite at -144, although Sweden’s moneyline of +351 isn’t a bad bet either.
Sweden was painfully close to reaching the finals just three years after playing in the Olympic finals. They pushed the Netherlands to extra time and were actually the better team for large stretches of the game. However, they couldn’t capitalize on their chances and ultimately fell 1-0, forcing them to settle for the third-place game.
Meanwhile, England is coming off perhaps an even more painful loss to the United States in the semifinals. The Three Lionesses thought they had a late equalizer in their 2-1 loss, but the goal was taken back for offsides. They also had a penalty kick saved in the final minutes, again missing out on a chance to pull even and at least force extra time. Instead, the English will play in the third-place game for the second consecutive World Cup.
All About Goals
At times, England has put its goal-scoring prowess on display, scoring 12 goals in six World Cup games. Half of those goals have come from striker Ellen White, who’s tied for the most goals in the tournament. Normally, White might be rested, and the squad would be rotated during a third-place game. But with White having a chance to win the Golden Boot and England hoping to take home third place for the second straight World Cup, Phil Neville could put his best squad on the team.
Of course, while scoring goals hasn’t been an issue for England in this tournament, their defense could be a concern for Saturday. Goalie Karen Bardsley missed the semifinals, so backup Carly Telford could be called upon again. Center back Millie Bright will also be unavailable after picking up a red card in the semifinals. Also, England’s full-backs are known for wanting to get forward, which could leave the England defense exposed against the Swedish counterattack.
Come Out and Play
Despite having a reputation for being a defense-first counterattacking team, Sweden actually had the run of play for long stretches in the semifinals. They earned 12 corner kicks as opposed to Holland’s four, so they were able to put the Dutch under a lot of pressure. With nothing to lose in the third-place game, the Swedes should be willing to play a little more open against England and try to get on the ball more than usual.
That being said, scoring goals hasn’t come easy for Sweden during this tournament. If you take away the Thailand game, they’ve scored just five goals in five games. Despite looking dangerous at times, they haven’t always been able to finish their chances. There’s a good chance that beating England will require multiple goals.
Third-place games can be tough to handicap because you don’t know if teams will be motivated or how much they will rotate their squads. However, it seems like England will be up for it. They are the better team, so if they’re motivated, they are the safest bet.