NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia — Sweden got the break it needed from the video review system, and team captain Andreas Granqvist didn’t waste the chance.
Granqvist slid his penalty kick into the bottom right corner of the net in the 65th minute to give Sweden a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Monday at the World Cup.
"I was calm. I waited for the goalie and then I put it in the corner," said Granqvist, a central defender. "We got the penalty, we scored, and then it was just a fight to the end."
The Swedes, playing in their first World Cup since 2006, were awarded the penalty after Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar consulted a video screen on the sideline. Aguilar had originally waved play on after South Korea substitute Kim Min-woo slid into a tackle and collided with Viktor Claesson. But he took another look and decided Kim had tripped Claesson as he tried to clear the ball.
"There was no doubt it was a penalty and should have been called right away," Sweden coach Janne Andersson said.
It was the third penalty to be awarded because of a video review in the first 12 games at this year’s World Cup. France and Peru also benefitted from the technology, though the Peruvians missed their penalty kick.
The video review system, making its World Cup debut in Russia, appears to be working so far.
"We do agree that it was a good call," South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong said.
Sweden is now tied for first place in Group F with Mexico, which beat Germany 1-0. The Swedes will next face the Germans on Saturday, while South Korea plays Mexico on the same day.
Although Sweden used the video review to win, it was the better team and showed most of the attacking intent. The Swedes just couldn’t beat goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo until the penalty.
Jo saved a close-range shot from Marcus Berg midway through the first half, using his right leg to make the block and then jumping back up to punch the ball away with both hands. He also stopped a powerful, dipping header from Ola Toivonen in the second half.
Shin fielded Jo, the team’s third-choice goalkeeper, because he is the tallest of the three keepers and the Koreans wanted to use his height against the Swedes.
Shin also gambled on a three-man attack of Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan and 6-foot-6 striker Kim Shin-wook.
South Korea, which has won only two World Cup matches since its incredible run to the semifinals in 2002, had a chance to level in injury time but Hwang put a header wide from in front of goal.
It wasn’t a flowing performance from Sweden, but securing the win will come as a huge relief to Andersson and his team.
Sweden couldn’t afford to miss the chance against a struggling South Korea team with tough challenges against Germany and Mexico to come.
South Korea must pick itself up to face a Mexico team high on confidence after its spectacular win over Germany.
KEY TO SUCCESS
Sweden: Granqvist was inspirational for Sweden, but the team still missed chances up front and that needs to be addressed before the match against Germany.
South Korea: Shin had high hopes for an attacking trio of Son, Hwang and Kim, but it didn’t work well enough.
Son, South Korea’s best player, switched from the left wing to the right and then back to the left again in an attempt to get something going.
LESSONS FROM MEXICO
Andersson said his team needed to learn from Mexico’s success against Germany and be bold and attacking.
"We need to dare to do even more," the coach said. "We need to dare to attack."
SOUTH KOREA A SHADOW
South Korea is a shadow of the team that made an inspiring run to the semifinals 16 years ago.
If the South Koreans fail to beat Mexico and Germany, they will have gone two World Cups without a win and will be in danger of another humiliating return home.
Four years ago, fans pelted the players with candy when they arrived back in Seoul from Brazil.