NICE, France — Kosovare Asllani set Sweden on its way to a 2-1 victory over England for third place in the Women’s World Cup on Saturday night but the midfielder almost didn’t play in the bronze medal match.
Asllani was taken off the field on a stretcher during Wednesday’s semifinal loss to the Netherlands following a head injury and was taken to hospital. And the 29-year-old revealed that as late as Friday she was told that she wouldn’t be able to play against England.
“Yesterday, I got a ‘no’ about playing from our medical staff. But we did the test again today and it was positive,” an emotional Asllani said. “I felt it was going to take a lot for me to miss this game but I really gave it my all and I feel in every percent of my body that I’ve given it all.”
Asllani gave the Swedes the lead in the 11th minute as they took advantage of early struggles by England. Alex Greenwood had plenty of time to clear Fridolina Rolfo’s cross but sent it straight into the path of Asllani, who drilled it into the bottom right corner past England goalkeeper Carly Telford.
Sweden was up 2-1 when Asllani was substituted out at halftime.
Photo: Claude Paris / Associated Press
Sofia Jakobsson had doubled Sweden’s lead before England got into the game with Fran Kirby halving the deficit in the 31st minute when she cut in from the right, beat her defender and curled in a shot off the base of the left post.
It was a third bronze medal for Sweden, which also finished as the runner-up in 2003. England, which had high hopes to at least advance to the final, took a step back after winning bronze four years ago in Canada.
Asllani and Sweden seemed to have more desire to win bronze than England coach Phil Neville, who called the third-place match “a nonsense game,” and retiring England midfielder Karen Carney, who said, “I’m kind of glad we didn’t win.”
England seemed a step slow, and Neville and several players said afterward they were emotionally drained after a 2-1 loss to the United States in the semifinals.
“I think maybe there was a carry-on from the semifinal, that emotion,” Neville said. “We gave it our best shot, we fell short, and next time we have to be better. It is really difficult to get yourself up for third-place games. Well done Sweden, but it’s a nonsense game. We came at this tournament to win it, not to finish fourth. … But I’m immensely proud. We dissect, we debrief and get back on the horse again.”
Carney said, “If we want to go and win the Olympics and the Euros, we have to have a fire in the belly. We have to dig deeper. We should not be afraid to say that we want to win the gold medal. No disrespect to Sweden or this game, but I’m kind of glad we didn’t win.”
The Swedes are looking to take that extra step as well. For now, they were happy to win bronze, piling on in celebration after the final whistle and all smiles when FIFA president Gianni Infantino presented each player with their medal.