World Cup 2018: VAR strikes again as Swedish penalty sinks South Korea

Ben Bloom
Andreas Granqvist stepped up to score the only goal of the game from the penalty spot - Getty Images Europe

Andreas Granqvist took advantage of a VAR-awarded penalty to hand Sweden a 1-0 win over South Korea in their World Cup opener.

The Sweden captain tucked home in the 65th minute of the Group F clash in Nizhny Novgorod after technology was used to rule that Viktor Claesson had been fouled in the area.

It was a deserved victory for Sweden, who created the better chances throughout and Marcus Berg spurned a couple of good openings.

The Swedes had been accused of spying on a Korea training session in the build-up to the game but they began with an apparent determination to put their own shortcomings in front of goal right.

Sweden had not scored in three outings prior to the tournament but they showed the greater attacking intent in the first half.

Granqvist, without defensive colleague Victor Lindelof of Manchester United due to illness, had an early opportunity after breaking from deep. He combined well with Berg, who returned his pass with a neat backheel, but Kim Young-gwon produced a fine tackle to frustrate him.

Marcus Berg missed a wonderful chance for Sweden in the first half Credit: reuters

Korea goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo then justified his unexpected selection, having been regarded as coach Shin Tae-yong's third choice, by producing a fine point-black save to deny Berg. Ola Toivonen headed wide from the resulting corner.

Korea suffered a blow when left-back Park Joo-ho was forced off midway through the first half with a hamstring injury and Sweden threatened again moments later through Berg, but again Young-gwon got in the way.

Tottenham's Son Heung-min created a rare Korea opportunity as he broke away from Granqvist but he was unable to pick out a colleague in the box.

Berg had another chance before the break as he controlled a long ball on his chest and took it away from the keeper but he could only lob across goal.

Mikael Lustig picked out Claesson with an inviting cross on the stroke of half-time but his header was deflected wide.

Sweden now top Group F alongside Mexico Credit: getty images

Korea began the second half more positively with Koo Ja-cheol heading narrowly wide but Sweden soon regained control and Jo again did well to keep out a header from Toivonen.

The breakthrough came after 65 minutes as Sweden were awarded a penalty after video review. Referee Joel Aguilar initially allowed play to go on after Claesson was hacked down by Lee Jae-sung but called a halt moments later, as Korea launched a counter-attack, after a word in his ear.

Granqvist took responsibility and sent Jo the wrong way.

That proved the telling blow and Sweden were largely untroubled as they saw out victory.

Korea might have snatched an equaliser in stoppage time but Hwang Hee-chan was unable to keep his header on target.

3:09PM

What next?

Anyway, what does that mean for Group F? Well, Sweden join Mexico at the head of the table, while South Korea and Germany are pointless (and goalless). Today's winners face the reigning World Cup champions next, which is a huge game. If Germany lose... well. Let's wait and see.

3:06PM

Good job / bad job

Obviously Clatts knows a hell of a lot more about refereeing than me, but I'm not really sure what the problem is. Yes, replays showed it was a penalty, but it all happened very quickly and did not appear clear cut at first viewing. VAR did the required job and all has ended correctly. Can't we just be happy with that?

3:02PM

Referee view

Mark Clattenburg (speaking on ITV) on the VAR decision:

What I'm concerned about the refereeing so far is he has a perfect chance to make the decision. He moves across beautifully. He has an unobstructed view and can clearly see it is a foul. I can't understand how a referee at this level cannot make a simple decision like this. Are they relying too much on the video?

2:59PM

Full-time stats

2:58PM

Reaction

A strange game, as a whole. You have to say Sweden deserved it, although they were rather underwhelming both for their poor finishing and the way they played after taking the lead. South Korea just looked blunt though. They didn't have enough to break down a decent defensive performance from the Swedes.

2:51PM

Full-time

Sweden 1 South Korea 0

2:51PM

90+3 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

A needless corner given away by Sweden! The Korean goalkeeper wanted to come up for it, but the coach says no. In comes the ball and the Koreans reckon there may have been a Swedish handball, but the referee isn't interested at all. Replays show the ball seemed to thud into Granqvist's head or perhaps chest. Correct decision.

2:49PM

90+2 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

Was that the chance? The ball is delivered high into the box, it finds its way to Hwang unmarked on the penalty spot, but his header is off target and wide of the post.

I tell you what, Sweden have been hopeless since taking the lead. You could argue they are content to sit back on their 1-0 lead, but they have barely touched the ball.

2:47PM

90 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

There will be four minutes of stoppage time for South Korean to find an equaliser...

2:46PM

89 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

Kim Min-Woo's cross from the left is hacked clear at the near post.

2:45PM

88 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

The Koreans are really struggling to break Sweden down. Plenty of possession, but they are greeted with a wall of yellow and don't seem to possess anything capable of breaking it down.

2:43PM

86 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

South Korea have not had a shot on target this entire match.

2:42PM

85 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

Nervous faces aplenty as the camera pans across the crowd. Lee Seung-Woo has woken up his side since coming off the bench. Can they find a route through?

2:40PM

82 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

Son has more than half a dozen team-mates waiting in the box as he stands over a free-kick from the right, but his delivery fails to beat the front man. Sweden have not kicked on since taking the lead at all.

2:38PM

80 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

The final substitution of the match sees Svensson replace the injured Larsson, who appears to have picked up a knock to one of his legs and limps off the pitch.

2:36PM

79 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

The South Koreans are seeing more of the ball in these closing stages, but Son cannot work his magic on the edge of the box, where he is crowded out as he looks for a route on goal. Lee Seung-Woo has been lively since coming off the bench.

2:35PM

77 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

VAR in action:

Credit: getty images

2:34PM

76 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

The signs aren't looking promising at the moment for the Koreans, who just don't seem to possess the threat required.

Another Swedish change sees Thelin replace Toivonen.

2:32PM

74 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

Lee Seung-Woo played for Barcelona once upon a time, by the way. He now plies his trade at Verona and is only 20 years old. Can he mastermind an equaliser?

2:30PM

72 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

All sorts of changes being made now. Hiljemark comes on for Ekdal, while Lee Seung-Woo is on in place of Koo.

2:27PM

70 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

South Korea made a change after that goal, with Kim Shin-Wook replaced by Jung. That has seen Hwang moved up top and the substitute shifted out wide.

Meanwhile, Sweden are very much on the charge now with the Koreans losing their way a little.

2:25PM

67 mins - Sweden 1 South Korea 0

Like or loathe VAR, but that was perfect use of the tool. An incorrect decision, correctly overturned. Oh and Granqvist had scored a few penalties in qualifying for this tournament, so perhaps not that much of a surpise.

2:22PM

GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAL!!!!

Can you believe who has stepped up to take the penalty? It's centre-back Granqvist!!! Here he comes... cool as you like. The skipper sidefoots the ball low to the right and Sweden are 1-0 up.

2:21PM

VAR review

It was Kim Min-Woo who slid in on Claesson inside the penalty area. Did he get the ball or was it all man?

Replays show: No touch of the ball. Clear penalty. And the referee has overturned his decision and pointed to the spot.

2:20PM

62 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

HUGE appeals for a Swedish penalty. The players and manager are going absolutely insane. And the referee has made the VAR signal...

2:18PM

61 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

A yellow card for Claesson after a reckless challenge on Hwang high up the pitch.

2:16PM

59 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Down the other end comes Hwang, who gets to the byline, hares towards the goal and attempts to cut back to one of four South Koreans charging into the box, but Jansson cuts it out just in the nick of time.

2:15PM

58 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

It's been a livelier start to the second half at both ends of the pitch.

Credit: reuters

2:14PM

57 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

... Larsson whips a gorgeous ball in, Toivonenmeets it in the middle and nods strongly towards goal, but Jo saves well low to his right again. The South Korean goalkeeper is having a fine game.

2:13PM

55 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

A yellow card for Hwang for kicking Augustinsson in the back on the floor after fouling the Swedish player. That gives Sweden the chance to deliver a cross into the box from the left...

2:11PM

53 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

He's up on his feet and close to the first goal of the afternoon. A few Korean supporters in the stadium think their side has taken the lead, but Koo's header has gone the wrong side of the post. He did excellently to rise highest at the near post as the ball was delivered from the left, but the header is just off target.

2:09PM

52 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Painful for Koo (who is writhing in agony) after Larsson stamps on the side of his knee while challenging for the ball. A free-kick is given but nothing more. It looked accidental, although Ally McCoisat says "he knows" what he's doing.

2:07PM

50 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Another opportunity goes begging for Sweden as Claesson gets in behind the Korean defence before cutting back to the fast-arriving Forsberg. The RB Leipzig winger decides to cut inside onto his right foot and attempts to curl into the top corner, but puts too much on it and watches as the ball sails high and wide.

2:05PM

47 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

An early sniff of a chance that never materialises for South Korea. The ball is worked to wide right where Lee Yong has made good ground from right-back, but his low cross is too close to Olsen and the goalkeeper snaffles it with ease.

2:02PM

Kick-off (part two)

Sweden get the second half underway. No half-time changes for either side.

1:57PM

Analysis

"That was a sitter," says Henrik Larsson of Berg's miss from close-range. But the Swede is content enough with his side's performance.

They started slowly, but Sweden have dominated huge portions of this match and it's difficult to see anything other than a victory for the European side based on that first-half showing. Actually, a goalless draw could be a sure bet. South Korea have just been unable to get enough time on the ball, while Son has been kept quiet.

1:54PM

Stats

1:48PM

Half-time

Nothing doing for either side. Sweden 0 South Korea 0.

1:47PM

45+1 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Another opportunity late in the half for Sweden. Lustig delivers a demon of a cross from the right, which Larsson rises highest to meet, but his header is deflected over the bar for a corner that comes to nothing.

1:45PM

45 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Two minutes of stoppage time to be played.

1:44PM

44 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Another chance for Berg, who does brilliantly to bring a long ball down on his chest and work a shooting chance, but again his finish is poor. Ki then slides in on Toivonen, which prompts appeals for a Sweden penalty, but the referee says no. And replays show it was a perfect sliding tackle, taking the entire ball and then a whole lot of man after.

1:42PM

42 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

This is smart from the South Koreans, working the ball from left to right and before it is played in to Son as he darts into the box. Augustinsson gets just in front of the Spurs man though and nips in to tackle at the crucial moment.

1:39PM

38 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Sweden are furious not to be awarded a free-kick high up the pitch, but the referee waves away their appeals and it allows Ki to drive South Korea up the pitch. The chance fails to materialise but the Swedes are furious. Rightly so, replays show, because that was a clear foul on Forsberg.

Jon Champion has just said "possibilities" in the manner of his Pro Evo commentary. I hope someone other than me know what I'm talking about there. It prompted a little smile (from me).

1:35PM

35 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

The shot counter stands at Sweden 2 South Korea 0. The likes of Son just aren't getting a sniff of the ball at the moment. Hold that thought... here he comes. The Spurs man picks the ball up inside his own half and sprints all of 50m past the Sweden defence before cutting back in the direction Hwang, but Granqvist is there to cut out the danger.

1:31PM

31 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

This is where Berg missed from:

Credit: afp

1:30PM

30 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0 

South Korea are just hanging on a little now as Sweden continue to press.

1:29PM

29 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

... the ball is delivered, only to be headed behind for a corner. And another corner after Kim Young-Gwon throws himself admirably in the way of Berg's close-range shot. A brilliant block that. Kim Min-Woo is now on in place of Park.

1:27PM

27 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

South Korea are a man down at the moment and Park is going to have to go off. He looks to have done some hamstring damage while leaping to keep a ball in play. A new left back is going to be required. Meanwhile, Sweden have an extra man and a free-kick in a dangerous position...

1:26PM

25 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

The Swedes have grown into this match after a slow start. South Korea have been nowhere near the opposition penalty area for some time.

1:25PM

24 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

That Berg chance really, really, really should have been taken and it should be 1-0 to Sweden.

1:22PM

21 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

What a save. My word, how has that not gone in??? Berg is totally unmarked as the ball comes into the box, eight yards from goal and looks for all the money in the world like he is going to score. But Jo makes himself big and deflects the ball over the bar courtesy of his leg and a punch.

That was a HUGE chance. Also the first shot of the match for either side.

1:19PM

18 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

What a run from Granqvist. The Sweden centre-back decides to take matters into his own hands and charges from his centre-back position upfield. He plays a lovely one-two with Berg, whose smart back-heel guides the ball into the box, where Kim Young-Gwon has to slide in and deliver an inch-perfect tackle just as the Sweden skipper was preparing to shoot.

1:16PM

16 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

The volume briefly rises as Son is given the chance to run at the Sweden defence down the left, but Jansson stands his ground well and times his challenge nicely just inside his own penalty area to dispossess the Spurs man.

Credit: getty images

1:14PM

14 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

A first hint of danger for the Koreans as Sweden have the ball inside their penalty area, but no opportunity arises to have a crack and the eventual cross is claimed well by Jo.

1:13PM

13 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Only 1,500 South Koreans inside the stadium apparently, while 30,000 Swedish fans are thought to have made the journey to Russia. But the minority will be more pleased with what they've seen so far. Although Kim Shin-Wook has just picked up the first booking of the match for a high tackle. Probably accidental, as his foot rolled over the ball but a yellow nonetheless.

1:10PM

10 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Blimey, referee Joel Aguilar has had his whistle glued to his lips so far. Soft foul after soft foul, all around the middle of the park.

1:09PM

9 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Sweden have been unable to venture into South Korea's third in these opening exchanges. Goals are the main concern for this Swedish side.

1:06PM

6 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Another set piece for South Korea after a foul on the left flank. Son is the man to deliver the inswinger, but Kim Shin-Wook (who is playing up top for the Koreans) is deemed guilty of fouling his marker and the referee blows the whistle for a foul.

1:05PM

5 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

Hwang has a first chance to run at his opposite number down the right and wins a corner for South Korea. Kim Shin-Wook is 6ft 6in so a decent target man for the set piece but Olsen comes out to punch clear with ease.

1:03PM

3 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

A couple of gentle fouls, a few long balls and Ally McCoist unhappy that South Korea weren't allowed to wear red because it would have "brightened up the occasion". That's your lot so far.

1:02PM

2 mins - Sweden 0 South Korea 0

It looks as though Ki is going to play deep in the central midfield role for South Korea, dropping between centre-backs when necessary. His contribution will be crucial, you think.

1:00PM

Kick-off

Sweden in yellow. South Korea (not allowed to wear red for this match) in white.

12:56PM

Nearly game time

The players are out. The temperature is 27 degrees. The anthems are being sung. And I cannot listen to Jon Champion without hearing his Pro Evo commentary.

"Coaches often say to players: treat the ball as a friend..."

12:53PM

Fun in the sun

This match is one of six World Cup games being played at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium:

World Cup 2018 stadium: Nizhny Nogorod Stadium

And the weather is beautiful:

Credit: afp
Credit: getty images
Credit: ap

12:46PM

News, news, news

A couple of other lines emerging from Russia this morning. Story No 1:

Croatia forward Nikola Kalinic sent home from 2018 World Cup after refusing to play against Nigeria

And story No 2:

Fifa launch investigation into homophobic chants by Mexico fans during World Cup match against Germany

12:36PM

South Korea

The South Koreans are - to use football parlance - not in a good moment. They only won four of their 10 qualifying games and required a 0-0 draw away in Uzbekistan to secure their place in Russia. Expectations are not high.

A huge amount of responsibility rests on the shoulder of Son Heung-min. The Spurs man is adored in his home nation, where he is fast approaching Park Ji-sung as their most famous footballing figure.

In the abscene of a reliable forward, Son could lead the line. One interesting name is Salzburg's Hwang Hee-chan, who is the youngest player in the squad and has been linked with a few big-name clubs. He will play up top alongside Son and could whack a few zeros onto his market value at this World Cup.

Most of the remaining players in the squad ply their trade either at home or in Japan, but captain Ki Sung-yueng is an exception. He is the heartbeat of the side, will attempt to run the show from the middle of the park and much will depend on how he performs. The defence is a weakness.

Credit: afp

12:23PM

Sweden

So, in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, what can we expect from Sweden today? First and foremost, a solid defence. Janne Andersson's side kept seven clean sheets in 12 qualifying games before stopping Italy from scoring in either leg of their World Cup play-off.

The team is notable for its lack of star names. Captain Andreas Granqvist did not make the grade at Wigan and plies his trade at Helsingborg, but was the first man other than Ibrahimovic to be named Swedish player of the year since 2006 when he received the accolade last year.

Other potentially familiar names include defenders Victor Lindelof (Manchester United), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Martin Olsson (Swansea City) and Pontus Jansson (Leeds United). One-time Arsenal and now Hull City midfielder Seb Larsson starts in central midfield, while RB Leipzig's Emil Forsberg carries their main attacking threat from the wing. Much is expected of him in particular.

Lindelof is unwell so Jansson comes into the side to partner Granqvist in the middle of the defence.

Credit: reuters

12:11PM

Mistaken identity

A cracking little story has emerged in the build-up to this match. Here's the headline:

South Korean football squad swapped jerseys in training to confuse Swedish spies

And here's the quote from South Korea manager Shin Tae-yong:

I heard that Western people don’t recognise Asian people’s faces at once, so that was my little trick to confuse the opponents.

12:03PM

Your teams are in

11:56AM

Who don't like Mondays?

How great is football on a Monday lunch time? And a Monday afternoon? And a Monday evening? It's literally (that's a lie) never-ending.

Kicking off the World Cup delicacies this week are Sweden and South Korea. Coming into this tournament, both sides would have assumed they were fighting for second place in Group F with reigning champions Germany huge favourites to top the group.

Then the Germans went and lost 1-0 to Mexico, blowing the entire thing wide open. 

What it does mean - assuming Germany come back stronger in their remaining two group fixtures - is whoever loses this match will be seriously struggling to make it to the knockout stages.

In the yellow corner are Sweden, who have never lost a match against South Korea (played 4: won 2, drawn 2). They also secured their joint-biggest ever win against the South Koreans when thumping them 12-0 at the 1948 Olympics. What does that mean for today? Absolutely bugger all.

The main thing to note from a Sweden perspective is a lack of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The talismanic striker had been a mainstay of the Swedish line-up for close to two decades, but hung up his (international) boots after Euro 2016. In his absence, the Swedes performed mightily well to qualify for this tournament by finishing second in a group with France and Holland, before beating Italy in the play-offs.

South Korea are guided by two men who will be well-known to Premier League fans: Son Heung-min, of Tottenham fame, and Ki Sung-yueng, of free-agent-but-formerly-of-Swansea-City fame.

The bookies have Sweden as favourites, but South Korea have the standout player on the pitch in Son. And, unsurprisingly, they ruddy love him. I remember this tweet from a few months back:

It turns out the broadcaster had Son's image on the screen so that people knew whether he was on the pitch or not. So not quite what the original tweet suggested, but still pretty amusing.

If you want my tip, I've gone for a 1-1 draw. And that comes from a man sat rock bottom of the 38 people in our Telegraph office match-by-match prediction competition, so anything I say has absolutely no chance of happening.