Moscow [Russia]: Defender Andreas Granqvist netted a second-half penalty as Sweden kicked off their campaign at the ongoing 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup with a 1-0 triumph over South Korea in Group F here at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Monday.
Sweden headed into the opening match after thrashing Italy in the playoffs and were eager to show that they could perform on the biggest stage without their star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Meanwhile, South Korea, who had two draws and two defeats from their last four matches against Sweden, were eager to create an upset over the higher-ranked Sweden going into the clash.
However, it was Granqvist’s penalty kick in the 64th minute of the match that handed Sweden full three points in a low-scoring affair.
It was South Korea who got off to a better start in the first 10 minutes of the match as they attacked Sweden on both wings with a bit of success, while the European side was struggling to find their way into the game.
In the 20th minute of the match, Swedish forward Marcus Berg got a great chance to notch a goal from close range, but South Korea goalkeeper rushed out to stop it.
Just a few minutes later, South Korea suffered a big blow as defender Park Joo-Ho fell awkwardly while trying to head a long pass and was forced off the field to get eventually replaced by Min-Woo Kim.
The two teams went goalless into the half-time.
Sweden began their second half marching forward and inside the Korean half, but the latter side, who was sitting deep, quickly gained the possession.
It was only in the 65th minute of the match that Sweden managed to break the deadlock when Granqvist converted the spot kick by calmly putting the ball to the left of the goalie.
Granqvist only handed lead Sweden after referee Joel Aguilar used the Video Assistant Reference (VAR) technology to decide whether South Korea substitute Kim Min-woo had fouled Viktor Claesson in the area.
ALSO READ: The two sides of Football
The last few minutes saw South Korea trying hard to make something out. While Korea had the possession, Sweden were sitting deep and not allowing any loopholes.
In the four minutes of additional time, Korea tried hard to score the equalizer, but Sweden kept pushing hard and managed to hold on to their lead.
Sweden will next face Germany while South Korea will take on Mexico in their next Group F clash.