Staff and wire reports

Was this the best Swedish women's team ever? Not by a long shot, writes Nordstjernan sports editor Chipp Reid: The 2011 Women's World Cup doesn't measure up to the team that finished second in 2003...


Marie Hammarström scored with eight minutes left to play to lift Sweden to 2-1 win over France in the bronze-medal game at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup July 16 at the Rhine-Neckar Arena in Sinsheim.
Down a player for almost 15 minutes after Josefine Öqvist received a red card for kicking Sonia Bompastor in the chest, Sweden won a corner kick that the French managed to clear at the near post. The ball popped out to Hammarström, who faked out a defender with a small side-volley, touched the ball a second time and then let fly with a thunderous left-footed strike from the edge of the box.
It was Hammarström’s first-ever goal for Sweden, and it allowed the Swedes to do the hippity-hoppity dance that’s become their trademark one last time.

“It was essential to win this match, because we’d played extremely well in our four previous matches before losing to an excellent Japanese side,” said Sweden head coach Thomas Dennerby. “That was a setback, but our reaction was top class. We showed what we were truly capable of and now we’re going to celebrate this bronze medal in an appropriate fashion.”
The Swedish team had a private jet waiting to whisk them off to Frankfurt, where they watched Japan beat the U.S. in a penalty-kick shootout to claim the World Cup trophy.
Making that flight proved difficult as France, built around Women’s Champions League-winning side Lyon, proved more than a match for the Swedes.
Lotta Schelin staked Sweden to an early lead, scoring her second goal of the tournament in the 29th minute. Sara Larsson booted the ball from about midfield and Schelin, running at a dead sprint, caught up to it at the edge of the box. As French goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz rushed out to try and smother the ball, Schelin deftly flicked it into the net with the outside of her right foot.
The two then collided, and Sapowicz came down on the outside of her right ankle. She immediately fell to the ground and had to leave the game.
France took a second blow three minutes later when silky smooth playmaker Louisa Necib went down with an injury. Despite losing two of its top players, the French continued to play a shard, crisp passing style that exposed a sometimes-shaky Swedish defense, although les Bleus could not find the final touch they needed to scored.
However, it was the Scandinavians who finished the half stronger. First Charlotte Rohlin sent a headed shot over the cross bar off a Sara Thunebro corner, then Schelin had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 just before the break, but fired straight at substitute keeper Celine Deville from 12 yards.

After the half, the French once more put on a show and this time, they found that last touch. France equalized in the 56th minute when Annica Svensson left a gaping hole on the left side of the defense after she missed on a clumsy tackle try on Gaetane Thiney. The French forward was able to slip the ball into the path of substitute Elodie Thomis, who was in acres of space. The Lyon forward, a teammate of Schelin’s beat Lindahl to the near post with her shot.
The two teams continued to work to trade opportunities as they played an extremely evenly matched game. Josefine Öqvist turned greedy when she banged a shot off the post – she had Schelin wide open and a simple square pass could have created all sorts of chances. Thomis had a pair of chances at the Swedish end, only to see Lindahl save one shot while the other beat the Swedish keeper only to pass inches wide of the goal.
Öqvist handed France a massive chance in the 68th minute when her frustration with her marker boiled over. French defender Bompastor took Öqvist down along the touch line with a clumsy tackle and gave the Swedish forward a shove while they lay tangled on the ground. Öqvist lashed back, kicking Bompastor in the chest. Öqvist received a straight red card, giving the French a one man advantage for the final 22 minutes of the match.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Swedes carried much of the play and in the 82nd minute, Hammarström struck.
The 29-year-old midfielder entered the game as a substitute for Linda Forsberg in the 62nd minute. After evading the attentions of Eugenie Le Sommer and Bompastor, she unleashed a fierce drive from the edge of the area that gave French substitute goalkeeper Celine Deville no chance.
"I wasn't thinking of my friends in Lyon, just my friends in Sweden," said Schelin, who plays for Olympique Lyon in France. "I am so happy about what we have achieved. It is a good team and we work for each other. We refocused after missing the opportunity to play in the final and at least we have a medal now."