After securing their second dramatic penalty-shootout win in a matter of days to knock Brazil out of the race for gold, Sweden’s players celebrated by turning the dressing room stereo up loud and pumping out a succession of hits. Featuring large on the Swedes’ victory playlist were a number of '80s tunes, among them 'You Make My Dreams' by American duo Hall & Oates.
Footloose and fancy free after the whistle, the blue-clad Swedes were anything but before it, with experienced keeper Hedvig Lindahl expertly marshalling a rock-solid defence that erased memories of their 5-1 group-phase defeat to the Brazilians ten days previously and ensured Scandinavian representation in the final of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016.
Lindahl was coolness personified against the hosts at the Maracana, no more so than when pulling off two saves in the shootout, after two punishing hours of football, the second of them a stunning dive to her right to push Andressa’s firm strike away. Lisa Dahlkvist then completed the job, stroking home to spot-kick to give the Swedes a 4-3 shootout win and silence a stadium that had been preparing to party.
“The fans were against us, but they weren’t hostile,” the goalkeeper told FIFA.com. “I didn’t feel uncomfortable or under pressure at all. I just felt confident and motivated at playing in one of the most incredible atmospheres I’ve ever experienced. At the end of the day, it’s just me against the penalty-taker. If you can ignore the noise around you, or at least not let it bother you, then penalties can end up being a lot of fun.”
The fans were against us, but they weren’t hostile. I didn’t feel uncomfortable or under pressure at all.
Since being overwhelmed by a freewheeling Seleção in their second match in Group E, Sweden have tightened up considerably, with their keeper doing more than anyone to make them secure at the back. Following a goalless draw with China, the Scandinavians have gone the distance in two knockout matches, winning both of them on penalties. In those four hours of football against two of the game’s strongest sides, they have conceded a solitary goal, to the USA in the quarter-finals, much to the delight of their coach Pia Sundhage.
“I’m delighted that Pia has put her faith in me, and that confidence is crucial to our tactic of inviting opposing sides on and then hitting them on the counter-attack,” explained Lindahl. “It’s all down to the whole team, though. To play that way, we have to know exactly what we’re about. I think today you have to give credit to our defence, who cut out an awful lot of crosses.”
Sweden’s discipline and dedication has secured them an unexpected medal. Yet before they headed off to study gold medal match opponents Germany in depth, they took time out to celebrate what was a special win over the tournament hosts, with substitutes Emma Berglund and Olivia Schough stepping up as DJs for the night.
“It’s funny because these dressing-room celebrations used to be even bigger a few years ago, before you had smartphones and social networks,” said the goalkeeper. “These days, we spend a bit of time talking with our families and posting things, and we share that stuff with the rest of the team.”
Bearing in mind everything that Sundhage’s team have put into securing their place on the podium, the lyrics from Hall & Oates’ 1980 hit seems strangely fitting, at least for the sides that have fallen victim to the Swedes: “What I want, you've got, but it might be hard to handle.”