Sweden 1(6)-1(5) Italy (Algarve Cup)
By: Yash Thakur
Sweden faced Italy in the final of the Algarve Cup at 11:00 am local time. The Blågult came into this having won their game against Portugal 4-0 and after their match vs. Denmark was called off due to a number of COVID cases in the Danish camp.
Peter Gerhardsson lined Sweden up in a fluid 4-3-3 that morphed into a 4-4-2 out of possession. Kosovare Asllani captained the side and played as an attacking eight next to Rubensson and Bennison. Former Madridista, Sofia Jakobsson, formed the attack alongside Anvegård and Schough.
Italy took the lead in the first half thanks to some brilliant work from Bonansea, who played a great ball into feet for Giacinti to put away convincingly. Italy tried to move upfield quickly by playing long balls to take advantage of Girelli’s aerial ability, which was used to find wide runners.
Asllani was brilliant in the link role again. Her ability to receive under pressure and back to goal was on show, as she spun away from challenges to either find space or draw fouls. She worked hard off the ball and pressed well as part of a front two on defense.
Sweden made a host of changes after the 60th min to try and change the tie and managed to earn a penalty in the second half, leading to the equalizer. The penalty was earned by Hurtig but was preceded by some good work by Asllani, who turned and carried the ball forwards before sliding a pass to Hurtig.
Italy almost sealed the deal at the end when an inviting cross at the far post was headed across the face of goal by Girelli but Caruso couldn’t get over the ball and keep the header down.
The game finished 1-1 in normal time and penalty shootouts were required to decide the winner. Asllani stepped up to take the second penalty and calmly slotted home in the bottom-right corner.
Both teams scored all five of their penalties and sudden death was needed to decide a winner. It was veteran goalkeeper, Hedvig Lindahl, who scored the decisive penalty before saving the next one to help Sweden clinch the title. Barbara Bonansea was voted the “Player of the tournament” for her brilliant performances.
This international break thus ends in ecstasy for Sweden as they pick up a silverware in the buildup to the upcoming Euros. Asllani returns to Madrid healthy after a successful tournament.
Spain 1-0 Canada (Arnold Clark Cup)
By: Om Arvind
Spain rolled out with very few changes to their 4-3-3 vs. England; Leila Ouahabi replaced Ona Batlle and Athenea del Castillo came in for Lucía García on the left.
Spain continued their shaky form over the first 10 mins or so, instantly giving up a chance to Jordyn Huitema and failing to progress from the back cleanly. However, they soon worked their way into rhythm, aided by Canada’s refusal to press aggressively (contrary to England) despite employing a high line. Bev Priestman’s strategy was to guide Spain to the sideline and contest for possession there.
That was not enough to contain the quality of Mapi León, Patri Guijarro, Alexia Putellas, and Athenea — the latter two forming a delightful partnership that grew stronger as the minutes passed.
In the 20th minute, Spain sprung forward from a giveaway and found Alexia unmarked in the box.
That would be the only goal of the game, although Spain dominated for large stretches, limiting Canada to set-piece attempts (Huitema struck the bar) and a late surge at the end (Ashley Lawrence swapping to right back coincided with this).
Athenea was fantastic, nabbing at least two nutmegs and generating the most offensive threat with the ball. But her maturity and security in possession were even more impressive, helping Spain progress up the pitch and providing a necessary forward connection for Alexia.
Marta Cardona was less visible. Much of this had to do with Spain’s immense left-sided bias, but there is also a sense that she lacks confidence in everything she does right now. The perfect encapsulation of this came in the second half, when she got the ball stuck under her feet and couldn’t fire off a shot from a great location.
The exact moment when she finds her original level again remains to be seen, but with each passing day Madrid and Spain fans grow more anxious. Cardona at her best is the national team’s #1 winger (depending on how you classify Mariona) and club side’s #1 player. Everyone needs and wants prime her back.
Ivana Andrés was Las Blancas’ third starter on the night. Like Marta, she didn’t have much of the ball due to Spain’s focus on the left, but was clean with possession. Ivana covered space well but could’ve been sharper with some of her box defending.
Olga Carmona (46’) and Esther González (59’) both came off the bench. While the latter’s more disciplined positioning as a pure nine was notable, she didn’t get on the end of many chances. Instead, it was Olga who quietly made an impression, imitating Athenea with the nutmegs and contributing to ball progression. The left back had strong and weak moments defensively.