Arsenal’s next three Premier League fixtures will tell us a lot as to whether they are worthy of a European place or if it’s a bridge too far for Mikel Arteta’s charges this season.
An exultant second half effort has put Sweden through to the top of the group with a 3-0 victory, all three goals scored after the interval.
Defenders Ludwig Augustinsson and Andreas Granqvist (a penalty) put Sweden through, and a clumsy own goal made it impossible for Mexico in the 74th minute.
The first half was even, but Sweden made their intentions known in that half with several half chances not taken. Their defensive block was intense, leaving Mexico no room in the inside channel while inviting Mexico to try to pass over them.
Mexico did find channels out wide in the first half- where Chucky Lozano seemed up for a fight – but the chances were low percentage and swallowed up by the imposing Swedish defence.
But the second half was something else entirely. Mexico lost all defensive shape to start the half and Sweden did not miss their chances to punish them. Emil Forsberg controlled the space between the Mexican lines and made their back four look flat footed time and time again.
It wasn’t total football – but Sweden stuck doggedly to their oppressively quick counters and long balls and ultimately wore down Mexico. The chances also dried up for Mexico in the second half – and although Vela should have found the net from extremely close range late on, but it would have been too little too late.
Sweden continued to allow Mexico to keep the ball (it ended with Mexico having 67 per cent possession) but they didn’t leave any space open to exploit that possession.
The man of the match was probably Forsberg, but the junior footy trick of naming ‘team effort’ could easily apply here. Sweden don’t play pretty but they play as a team and will now take some fantastic form and confidence into the Round of 16.
And despite their limitations, and their ramshackle squad, this performance means they cannot be discounted no matter the opponent.