EKATERINBURG: Sweden recovered from their dramatic defeat by Germany to go through to the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup as unlikely Group F winners after a 3-0 victory over Mexico on the final matchday.
Manager Janne Andersson’s men won the group on goal difference – with Mexico also advancing after Germany’s shock defeat to South Korea – on goals from Ludwig Augustinsson, Andreas Granqvist and an own goal from Edson Alvarez.
Sweden also had a first-half penalty claim for a handball by Javier Hernandez that was denied despite going to a VAR review, but in the end it mattered little after their three second-half goals.
Augustinsson fired Sweden ahead five minutes after the break when a Viktor Claesson mis-hit inadvertently found him free at the far post, before captain Granqvist smashed in a penalty 12 minutes later after Hector Moreno was judged via VAR to have pulled down Marcus Berg.
Sweden’s attacking surge was all the more surprising remembering that they reached the finals only courtesy of the defensive defiance of their play-off victory over Italy.
Mexico – who went close through a curling Carlos Vela effort in the first half – pressed hard for a reply but were punished again when Edson Alvarez clumsily turned an attempted clearance past his own keeper.
Juan Carlos Osorio’s side, so brilliant in two previous wins over Germany and South Korea, should have at least a goal from their underwhelming performance but for a point-blank missed header by Vela in the closing stages.