NIZHNY NOVGOROD: Sweden, having beaten Italy in the qualifying playoffs, justified their presence at the World Cup finals with an opening 1-0 win over South Korea in Nozhny Novgorod.
The Swedes, back in the tournament for the first time in 12 years, owed victory to a penalty awarded after a video review. Andreas Granqvist calmy shot home in the 65th minute after Viktor Claesson had been tripped by substitute Kim Min-woo.
Manager Janne Andersson’s men deserved their victory but made hard work of winning their opening game for the first time since 1958, when they were runners-up in their best performance to date.
The Koreans had their chances. Koo Jacheol was narrowly wide with a header in the 55th minute and Hwang Hee-chan should have rescued a point in the last minute but was off-target with his own ‘free’ header.
Inbetween, El Salvador referee Joel Aguilar was rescued by his own blunder in failing to call an obvious penalty by the video assistant.
South Korea have now won only one of their last 10 World Cup games.
Sweden next face Germany, while Korea take on in-form Mexico who pulled off a major shock by beating the world champions in their Group F opener.