Swedish Women’s Soccer Team Continues to Impress Amid Criticism (and other updates on Swedish Olympians)

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Swedish Women’s Soccer Team Continues to Impress Amid Criticism (and other updates on Swedish Olympians)

Sverige - Schweiz 3-0, Träningslandskamp Fotboll Dam
Photo: Pechblaende

They’ve been called cowards. They’ve been called boring. They’ve been called villains.

Yet, they’re playing for a gold medal on Friday.

When Sweden’s women’s soccer team plays for its first Olympic gold against Germany – also playing for its first gold medal – the underdog that has knocked off gold-medal favorites the United States and Brazil will continue to be critiqued and criticized as much as celebrated.

That’s a shame.

After beating the United States in penalty kicks, American goalie Hope Solo called the Swedes “cowards” for their style of play, a pack-it-in defensive plan that took few chances. Swedish coach Pia Sundhage, former head coach of the American team, had one of the lines of the Olympics when told of Solo’s comments: “I don’t give a crap. I’m going to Rio, she’s going home.”

Sweden then employed a similar style of play to upend Brazil, the same Brazil that pounded the Swedes 5-1 earlier in the tournament, in penalty kicks.

Sundhage and the Swedes were chided for being boring.

SB Nation’s headline: Sweden has annoyed everyone on their way to the women’s soccer Olympic gold medal match. The subhead reads “Watching Sweden is awful. Here’s why they’re so boring and why that makes everyone mad.” Mashable called the Swedes the most “evilly exquisite Olympic villains” in a headline – it later removed the “evilly.”

Everyone assuredly is not mad. Swedish fans are overjoyed at the thought of a gold medal. Olympics fans who believe the Swedes’ strategy of “boring” play should be applauded have respect for them for ousting two of the best teams in the world. And there are the soccer pundits who see it for what it is: At the end of the day, the Swedes won and deserve to be where they are.

The Olympics bring uplifting stories of courage, perseverance and dedication. While this is no “Miracle on Ice” when another underdog changed styles to overcome an earlier drubbing to win a gold medal, the Swedes run to the gold medal match has been impressive. It’s not luck, it’s smart. And it’s working. Kind of like Italy winning the World Cup in 2006 largely on defense. Or, in the other football, last year’s Denver Broncos and 2000’s Baltimore Ravens come to mind as teams who relied on defense and field position and didn’t mind one bit that the offense, the flashier side of the ball, left plenty to be desired.

Win or lose in the championship, the Swedes deserve to be celebrated.

Other Swedish highlights from Rio include:

  • Sarah Sjöström became the first Swedish woman to ever win Olympic gold in the pool when she set a world record in the 100m butterfly. She also took silver in the 200m freestyle and bronze in the 100m free – at this time, she has earned three of Sweden’s six medals.
  • Henrik Stenson continued his torrid play by taking the silver medal in golf in Rio. After winning his first major – The British Open – earlier this year and challenging at the PGA Championship, Stenson impressed again in an event that hadn’t been played in the Olympics since 1904.
  • Cyclist Emma Johansson was part of the three-woman pack that chased down American Mara Abbott and finished with her second Olympic silver medal – she also won silver in 2008 in Beijing.
  • Marcus Svensson also won a silver medal in Men’s Skeet, falling 16-15 in his gold medal match with Italy’s Gabriele Rossetti.

Upcoming Events of Note:

  • Petter Menning is expected to be in the mix for a medal in the men’s kayak 200m on Friday morning.
  • We’ll be keeping tabs on women’s freestyle wrestler Sofia Mattsson, who wrestles in the quarterfinals today.
  • Lisa Nordén, who lost the gold medal in the 2012 triathlon in a photo finish and settled for the bronze, goes for gold on Saturday.
  • Elin Johansson is in the Round of 16 in women’s taekwondo on Friday.
  • The men’s sailing team of Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom goes for a medal today.
  • Anna Nordqvist will try to match Stenson in winning a medal in women’s golf, which continues today and tomorrow.

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