The opening game of Group F for the 2019 Women’s World Cup was played between World Cup debutants Chile who played against Sweden. Sweden were the clear favourites going into this match, as they were ranked 9th in the world, compared to Chile’s 38th, Group F’s lowest.
In this tactical analysis, we’ll have a look at some of the key tactical facets of this match.
Chile lined up in a 4-3-3, that dropped into a deep 4-5-1. Captain Christiane Endler started in goal. Ahead of her was a back four consisting of Su Helen Galaz, Carla Guerrero, Camila Sáez, and Javiera Toro. Wingers Daniela Zamora and Rosario Balmaceda flanked a midfield trio of Karen Araya, Yanara Aedo and Francisca Lara. Maria Jose Urrutia acted as a lone striker.
Sweden lined up in a fluid 4-3-3/4-2-3-1. A back four of Magdelena Eriksson, Linda Sembrant, Nilla Fischer and Hanna Glas protected veteran stopper Hedvig Lindahl who started between the sticks. Caroline Seger and Elin Rubensson acted as a double pivot. Fridolina Rolfö and Sofia Jakobsson flanked attacking midfielder and match-winner Kosovare Asslani, while Stina Blackstenius led the Swedish line.
Sweden struggle to break down Chile’s low block
From the kick-off, it didn’t take long for us to see how the game would play out. Sweden dominated possession throughout the whole match. Up until the match was interrupted, (Due to the torrential rain and lightning striking dangerously close to Roazhon Park in Rennes, France.) Sweden had 69% possession. Chile fell into a very deep low 4-4-3/4-5-1 block, with Aedo occasionally joining Urrutia up top out of possession. Chile remained in this shape for most of the match. Sweden’s game plan when it came to bypassing this block was to create space in between Chile’s defensive lines, and then chipping the ball into the box, aiming for runners who found space. Due to Chile’s extremely vertically compact shape, it was difficult for them to create this space. They would attempt to dribble towards the Chilean goal looking to attract a Chile defender out of her position. Chile were usually well equipped defensively to deal with this. They would track the ball-carrying Swede with a spare midfielder or winger. This was an effective strategy throughout the game as it prevented Sweden from creating space in between the lines.
When Chile did have a rare spell of possession, it was usually very short and lacked any real attacking quality. They struggled to string together more than six or seven passes. Due to this, most of Chile’s chances stemmed from audacious long shots, but Swedish goalkeeper Lindahl was equal to all of the shots she faced, despite being a mere spectator for large portions of the match.
Sweden find joy out wide
A recurring theme throughout the match was Sweden getting the ball out wide before crossing. They knew that Chile would most likely defend narrow. The wide areas usually tend to be uncontested when facing narrow low blocks, but Chile were prepared for Sweden’s wide attacks. Wingers Balmaceda and Zamora would act as auxiliary full-backs when Sweden had the ball in the wide areas. They were usually positioned more centrally than a traditional full back. This positioning allowed some gaps to appear out wide which was an invitation the Swedish wide players gladly accepted. Sweden attempted 29 crosses throughout the match, but Chile were usually able to win the first or second ball, Las Chicas De Rojas won 15 aerial duels. When a Chilean defender managed to tackle or intercept the ball, there was usually little effort to counter-attack. They preferred to clear the ball or play long, attempting to exploit the space in behind Sweden’s high defensive line. This attacking strategy is emphasised by the statistic that Chile cleared the ball 29 times, and their pass accuracy was low, at only 54%.
Sweden’s pressing patterns
As Sweden had the majority of the ball, we didn’t see many examples of their press. Their primary pressing triggers were when a Chilean defender took a heavy touch, when she received the ball with her back to goal, or when Chile tried to advance out of their own half. When one of these happened, Sweden would pounce. They would close down the player on the ball with intensity, either forcing a turnover in possession or forcing the Chile player to play a long ball. Sweden usually had more than enough players in the opposing half to maintain this press throughout the match. This was due to their high defensive line which congested almost every outfield player into Chile’s half. The main goal of Sweden’s press was to ensure that Chile could not advance the ball into the Swedish half, as well as winning the ball back close to the opponent’s goal.
Excellent Endler is Chile’s saviour
While Chile’s performance as a defensive unit was excellent, however, Paris Saint-German goalkeeper Endler was by far the standout player. She made 4 saves, including an absolutely world-class reaction stop when she clawed the ball off of the line after a deflected shot nearly evaded her reach. Although Chile had almost no attacking play throughout the match, she was a makeshift creative fulcrum for the debutants. She successfully completed 12 long passes in the match. Her performance was a real testament to the 27-year-old’s ability on the ball. She was also imperious aerially. This came as no surprise considering that she was the tallest player in either team’s matchday squad, standing 182 centimetres tall.
Chile ultimately lost their first ever Women’s World Cup match, ensuring that all of this year’s World Cup debutants were defeated in their opening game. However, they can hold their heads up high. They defended extremely well to weather the Swedish storm, as well as the French storm that delayed the final whistle by almost 45 minutes. They were disheartened as they conceded soon after the game resumed, in the 83rd minute. While Madelen Janogy’s fine solo effort in the 94th minute only put the final nail in the Chilean coffin after they were caught out after committing players forward, desperately seeking a late equalizer. Chile will face an arguably tougher team next time out against the defending champions USA. Sweden will be delighted to have picked up all three points against a resilient Chilean defence. They will look forward to facing a much more permeable Thai back line with Thailand conceding 13 goals in a humbling opening day defeat to the USA.
If you are following the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 then you will find our FREE tactical preview magazine the perfect compliment to the tournament. You can download it HERE – each nation is previewed and we also profile their key player and young player to watch. Enjoy!