The points were shared in the final game of Group A in the Women’s Blind Football World Championships at the IBSA World Games as England and Sweden played out a 0-0 draw at the University of Birmingham.
A draw was all Sweden needed to secure progression to the semi-finals, whilst England missed out having required their maiden World Championship win to progress themselves.
Samantha Gough impressed for England with much of England’s play going through the striker. The host’s reliance on their captain was arguably what saw their downfall, however, with the forward taking many of the chances herself and no one else offering attacking threat.
Sweden had chances to go ahead in the first half but spent much of the second in their own half, held back by the attacking prowess of Gough.
Despite her skilful runs and impressive close control, it was not enough on this occasion as she struggled to find the net.
England will await a 7th place play-off and will go in search of their first win in the tournament whilst Sweden will look ahead to a semi-final clash and hope to secure their spot in the final.
Women’s blind football is played out with five players fielded for each team, including a fully-sighted goalkeeper who is restricted to standing in a small box around the goal, allowing the outfield players to get reasonably close.
All outfield players wear blindfolds to ensure no one has an advantage as partially-sighted women can also compete in women’s blind football.
As an anticipatory silence settled over the crowd to allow the players to hear each other and the ball, the match kicked off and the pitch erupted with shouts of direction and encouragement from the players.
The early exchanges proved fairly even; Sweden had a couple of breaks but could make little of them with Viktoria Karlsson firing wide early on.
Gough proved England’s biggest threat and held off the Swedish defence for periods of time with her skill and close control. She had an opportunity to put the home nation ahead after just three minutes but narrowly fired wide of the target from close range.
Alice Hopkins proved just as vital in defence as going forward in the opening exchanges as she made a number of key interceptions to turnover possession and restart the attack.
The match proved fairly even with England often struggling to clear under pressure from number 5 from Sweden, though they did well to limit her ability to shoot.
It was captain, Gough, who provided opportunities upfront for England. She come close again after 8 minutes of time whilst her ability to dribble the length of the pitch continued to cause problems for the Swedish defence.
Katie Christopher was forced to make a save after 10 minutes as Alice Berntsson broke clear of Selina Prierto to fire to the near post on the right.
The solo threat of Gough perhaps came to England’s attacking detriment at points with the team often leaving her to attack alone. No doubt she was capable but was often left without support as she approached the goal and could not quite convert her chances.
Lucja Wyrwantowicz battled well on the right for England, retaining possession and igniting an attack that almost produced the perfect opportunity for Gough to finally get her goal. The England forward just strayed slightly too close to Moa Berg who was able to collect well.
Sweden made the most of the save, breaking quickly and sending Helena Thelin through on goal with a dangerous opportunity. Christopher did well to smother the opportunity as soon as Helin broke into her area.
The first half ended goalless with neither team providing the clinical edge required to produce a breakthrough in the match.
The second half produced much of the same, battles for possession breaking out all over the pitch but neither producing chances of real quality.
Sweden had the better of the chances to start as Lisa Ly almost found her way through to the left of the goal but fired wide of the far post. Christopher was once more forced into a save moments later under pressure from Alice Berntsson.
England, however, had soon fought their way back into the match and it was Gough once more breaking forward as the sun came out to warm up the Birmingham support.
Eliciting shouts of ‘Come on England’ from the home crowd, she came close twice in quick succession but could not quite find the direction of the net at the pivotal moment.
With seven minutes remaining, it was Gough once more causing ripples of ‘oooohs’ to resonate around the crowd. Picking the ball up on the right she curved her run round to attack centrally and narrowly fired wide at the near post.
It was English dominance for much of the second-half and they would have been deserving of a lead but their chances were either saved or fired wide in attempts to make the most of their possessional advantage.
It was a story of missed chances for England. Sweden largely left to defend in the second-half but the home nation continued to squander their chances with inaccurate finishing.
It was a valiant effort from a team making their debut at the World Championships but it was not quite enough to earn their first win of the tournament, with both sides instead forced to settle for a goalless draw.
The result was all that Sweden needed, drawing them level on points with both England and Morocco but with a superior goal difference. Resilient defending rewards the Scandinavian outfit with progression to the semi-finals and a chance to be crowned Champions.
England could not quite find the goal that would have earnt them the three points required for progression into the next round and instead finish bottom of their group. They put in a strong challenge against a Sweden team who only narrowly scraped through and would have been deserving winner had they got the goal.
England will look to pick themselves up after their debut tournament, led by superstar Samantha Gough. Sweden will aim for progression to the final.