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2023 Women's World Cup

The Big Story Day 4: Sweden’s comeback win, Netherlands edge Portugal, Jamaica earn first World Cup point

Joe Serci / SPP

Day 4 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup saw Sweden play South Africa, the Netherlands face Portugal, and France take on Jamaica.

Slept through it and need to know what the big story is? This is what happened on the fourth day of the World Cup.

Your bite-sized recap of Day 4 of the 2023 Women’s World Cup

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Sweden 2, South Africa 1

The Big Story: In their second World Cup, South Africa looked to get their first win in group play and after scoring the game’s opening goal, it appeared that might just happen. Sweden’s persistence paid off in the end, though, and they were able to claw their way even in the match, and then ahead.

The Big Moment: In the 90th minute, with the game tied 1-1, Amanda Ilestedt was able to convert the service from the corner with a well-placed header to give Sweden the lead.

What it means: South Africa might not have held the possession numbers, only retaining the ball 30% of the time, but they were able to limit the Swedish chances by efficiently cutting off the crosses in the box with quick clearances. They were also able to use the explosiveness of their forwards, including Racing Louisville’s Thembi Kgatlana, to have a number of threatening chances. They finished the first half with only one shot less than Sweden.

South Africa scored their second ever World Cup goal to go up 1-0 against Sweden minutes into the second half. Kgatlana’s close range shot was parried by the Swedish goalkeeper into the path of Hildah Magaia, who slotted it home. Unfortunately, after an own goal midway through the second half pulled Sweden even. Sweden then took the lead in the last minute of regulation. South Africa will need to clean up some of those defensive errors as they move through group play.

Sweden’s gameplan coming into the game appeared to be: get wide and send in crosses toward the goal. They truly stuck to the plan, sending in cross after cross. After deploying inefficient tactics in the first half and going down early in the second, it was surprising to see Sweden stick to it. They ended the match with 15 shots, and 13 corners. Sweden will be looking to be a little more efficient. It will be key to have those crosses actually connect with runners and translate into shots on target moving forward.

-Taylor Vincent

Netherlands 1, Portugal 0

The Big Story: Portugal’s World Cup debut offensively was less than ideal, playing against a well organized and flourishing Netherlands squad. Nonetheless, the game was decided by just one goal as the 2019 World Cup runner-ups struggled to score.

The Big Moment: VAR overturns the call on the field of offsides and the opening goal stands. In the 13th minute, a Sherida Spitse corner found the head of Stefanie van der Gragt at the far post. The veteran was able to head it back across the goal toward the opposite post. Jill Roord was called offside on the play, but after review, the goal was awarded because Roord did not touch the ball or interfere in the goalkeeper’s ability to stop the shot. 

What it means: Portugal seemed to struggle against the Dutch 3-5-2, especially getting through the depth of the midfield, leading to the Netherlands having more possession. Portugal did have chances to be dangerous, with a few set pieces in the Dutch half, but the Netherlands easily cleared the balls sent in, and Portugal ended the match with only two shots.

On the defensive side, the Dutch scored and continued to look dangerous on set pieces, so the debutants will need to tighten that up if they want to advance in this tournament. Portugal did make good halftime adjustments defensively that kept the Netherlands from scoring another goal. Portuguese goalkeeper Inês Pereira had a strong performance too, making some great saves to limit the damage of the Oranje Leeuwinnen.

The Netherlands showed off their ability to build through their midfield and utilize their three-back’s impressive long-ball ability, the variety keeping Portugal’s defense on their heels. While they looked dangerous on set pieces, for the most part they had some golden chances that should’ve been converted.

Cleaning up the small things will help the Netherlands against the United States on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final. On the defensive side, there were times where Portugal looked dangerous in transition led by winger Jessica Silva’s pace and finesse. Silva was often alone with no support because Portugal chose to not send many players forward, worried about the speed and numbers of the Dutch attack. The lack of numbers attacking meant the Dutch backline was able to respond and react. 

One thing to watch for is a potential injury to veteran forward Lineth Beerensteyn. The Juventus winger went down in the 83rd minute after a hard tackle from behind and needed to be subbed out after getting helped off the pitch. The Dutch are already missing star forward Vivianne Miedema due to her ACL tear last fall, so losing Beerensteyn would hurt their attack even more.

-Taylor Vincent

France 0, Jamaica 0

The Big Story: Jamaica earned a historic first point in a smart, defensive showing against one of the tournament favorites.

The Big Moment: In the second minute of second half stoppage time, Khadija “Bunny” Shaw was shown her second yellow after a tackle on Wendie Renard. Shaw was a standout all match, and losing her could have tipped the game in France’s favor, but Jamaica was able to hold on through the end and earn the historic point. 

What it means: This is a dismal start for France, who seemed to lack the cohesion or urgency needed to pull out a result. Despite holding onto the majority of possession, France struggled to find their rhythm or shots against a composed and disruptive Jamaican team. Although they became more dangerous over time, it took more than halfway through the first half before Les Bleues got their first shot on goal. Although they found their rhythm as the match moved into the second half, their play was too predictable and Jamaica was able to read their passes and pick them off consistently. In the 89th minute, Kadidiatou Diani gave France their best chance of the match, but was denied by the woodwork.

For Jamaica, this is a stunning achievement. Compare this result to their first World Cup appearance in 2019 when they not only conceded a goal in the first half of each game, but opponents scored hat tricks against them in all three of their matches. To hold a team considered a contender to win the whole tournament scoreless is massive. Although they couldn’t put together a particularly deadly attack, they should feel very confident about the fact they remained so calm and collected defensively against a top team and relentless attack. They were able to look dangerous in transition as well, so if they can find their connections in the final third, they have a strong chance of getting points off a less dominant team like Panama. Losing Shaw to a red card is a huge blow to be sure, but there’s no denying Jamaica can head into their next match on an all-time high.

-Bekki Morgan

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