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The odds for Sweden vs Belgium come from DraftKings sportsbook.
Peter Gerhardsson’s side are well balanced and they can keep Belgium’s attack quiet in this quarter-final.
Back Sweden to win to nil (+100) at DraftKings
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In 32-team tournaments like the men’s World Cup or the Champions League, the advantage of finishing top of the group can sometimes be negligible. In theory it should guarantee a kinder tie in the round of 16, but that is not always the case. But when there are only 16 sides taking part in a competition, like in the Women’s Euro 2022 being held in England this month, the benefit derived from topping your group can be vast.
Sweden provide the perfect example. They edged out the Netherlands in the battle for first place in Group C, with their superior goal difference ultimately proving pivotal. That accomplishment has landed them a quarter-final against Belgium. The Red Flames should not be underestimated, of course, and they are accustomed to playing the role of underdog. But even Belgian soccer fans would admit that their side is not at the same level as France – the team the Dutch must face in the last eight after finishing as Group C runners-up.
Sweden went into the summer with a sense of momentum behind them. They reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in France three years ago, only narrowly losing to the Netherlands after extra time. At the Olympics held in Japan last summer, Sweden scooped the silver medal. There are no age restrictions on team selections in the women’s game, so the Olympic tournament is in effect on a par with the World Cup and the European Women’s Championship.
Sweden’s size and status meant they were not among the pre-tournament favorites to win this tournament, despite their recent achievements and the fact their squad is one of the most balanced in Europe. They are now up to fourth in the betting charts, behind England, Germany and France. Peter Gerhardsson will not mind too much if his team continues to fly a little under the radar.
France were always expected to progress to the knockout phase; it was just a question of which other side from Group D would join them. Les Bleues finished first with a minimum of fuss, wrapping up top spot after matchday two, but all three other teams were still in contention for second place going into the final round of fixtures. Iceland had the points advantage but had to face France, so Italy were the favorites in what was in effect a winner-takes-all shootout against Belgium.
On this occasion, the sportsbooks were wrong. A 1-0 victory for the Red Flames saw them secure a top-two finish, with Tine De Caigny the goalscoring hero at the Academy Stadium in Manchester. Belgium defended with dogged determination both before and after taking the lead four minutes into the second half, and successfully repelled an Italy attack that lacked a cutting edge.
It was not the first time this summer that Ives Serneels’ charges demonstrated their mettle. They had to come from behind to avoid defeat by Iceland in their opening encounter, as Justine Vanhaevermaet made it 1-1 from the penalty spot midway through the second half. Even in a 2-1 loss to France, Belgium were competitive – certainly more so than Italy, who lost 5-1 to the same opponents a few days earlier.
Belgium can now look forward to a knockout tie at a major tournament for the first time in the history of the women’s national team. Victory over Sweden on Friday would probably rank as their greatest ever result.
Belgium’s game plan is not hard to predict. They will pack players behind the ball and keep the lines from back to front compact. The Red Flames will look to slow the game down whenever possible in an attempt to break up Sweden’s rhythm. It will be up to Gerhardsson’s side to stay calm and focus on the task at hand. Growing frustrated and hurrying their passing would only play into the hands of their opponents.
It is certainly possible to envisage Belgium keeping Sweden out in the first half an hour, or even for the entire opening period. Resisting for 90 minutes is improbable, though. And Belgium must also ensure they offer a threat going the other way. The worry is that they will be so preoccupied with trying to keep a clean sheet that they do not put much together in an attacking sense.
Only England and Germany outscored the Swedes in the group phase, and those two sides plus Austria were the only teams to have better defensive records. Sweden turned on the style against Portugal on matchday three, scoring five goals without reply, and they will hope for another comfortable evening against Belgium. A win to nil is the way to go in this one.
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|Teams||Sweden vs Belgium|
|Location||Leigh Sports Village, Leigh, England|
|Time||Friday, 22 July 2022, 3.00PM EST|
|How to watch||ESPN2, fuboTV|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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