Main Round Group II
Håkons Hall, Lillehammer (NOR)
Sweden - France
It was the second Main Round victory for France when they beat leaders Sweden with one goal after a real thriller in Lillehammer. This keeps a small French hope for the semi-finals alive.
In the table France step ahead with now four points. Sweden remain with six points and have fate in their own hands, as they only need a draw against Hungary in their last Main Round game on Wednesday.
France need a small miracle to get to the semi-finals, as in this scenario four or five teams would need to have six points on their account. This would include the Netherlands beating Norway, a French victory over Ukraine and Hungary beating Sweden.
The first game in Lillehammer was a great motivation for the Swedes: After the surprising Hungarian defeat against the Netherlands it was obvious that a draw against France would be enough to qualify for the semi-finals.
Still this small step turned out to be too big.
Ironically, in the first 20 minutes of the game Sweden was beaten by the exact weapons they had been using in the matches before: a strong, movable and aggressive defence and brilliant goalkeeping.
As goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud shut up shop and the French defence stood like a wall, the Swedes just could did not find the way through. France waited patiently for their chances - and was better in individual 1-1 situations.
So the world championship Silver medallist of 2009 was in lead 8:4 when Swedish coach Per Johansson took his team time-out.
Maybe the pressure was too big on the Swedes, as they seemed to be nervous - knowing they had the first match ball for their semi-final dream.
Johansson´s words seemed to work well. His players Gulldén and Torstenson scored three consecutive goals to 7:8. The latter put all her frustration about the bad start in any of her sharp shots.
But 50 seconds before the half time whistle Johanna Wiberg received a disqualification after her third two minutes suspension at the score of 11:9 for France.
And Sweden still did not find the match rhythm they had shown against Norway. As Leynaud still saved brilliant and the French back court attackers had a high efficiency in their shots, the distance arose to four goals in minute 40.
The margin could have been even larger if goalkeeper Grubbström would not have saved so well.
But as the combinations in attack did not work out, top scorer Linnea Torstenson (eight goals) took on responsibility, scored three straight goals - her team was back to life again.
When Therese Wallter equalized at 17:17 (minute 50), Sweden were virtually in the semi-final for the first time - and France took their team time-out.
Coach Olivier Krumbholz found the right words, as his team then scored three goals in a row and led 20:17.
The roller coaster accelerated, Sweden reduced to 19:20, France goes on to 22:19, Sweden reduced to 21:22.
As France missed the goal in their last attack, the Swedes had the chance to equalize and qualify for the semis for 25 seconds.
Coach Johansson brought a seventh field player. Three seconds before the end his teams received a free throw, but the ball was blocked.
Sweden had missed their first ”match ball” in this high tensioned group.
After today´s first two results - the Hungarian defeat against the Netherlands and the French triumph - five teams from the Lillehammer group can qualify for the semi-finals, excluding only Ukraine.
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