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Sweden holds off South Africa in women’s soccer opener

Sweden v South Africa: Women's Football - Olympics: Day -2

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 03: Nilla Fischer of Sweden celebrates after scoring while Refiloe Jane and Noko Matlou of South Africa watch during the Women’s Group E first round match between Sweden and South Africa during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

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In the first match of the Olympic women’s soccer competition, Sweden had to work harder than many anticipated as they beat South Africa by the final score of 1-0 Wednesday afternoon. Nilla Fischer’s tap-in of a ball mishandled by South African keeper Roxanne Barker on a Swedish corner kick in the 74th minute was the difference, making up for what proved to be a frustrating afternoon for Sweden offensively.

The Swedes produced far more opportunities of the two teams, including hitting the upper 90 with a shot early in the first half, but they were unable to get a shot past Barker until Fischer’s tally. South Africa was able to mount a couple counter attacks in the second half, but their inability to find that final pass resulted in the attack fizzing out without posing much of a threat to Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl. Sweden entered the Olympics ranked sixth in FIFA’s world rankings, while South Africa is 52nd, but the rankings didn’t matter much as the underdogs were able to frustrate the Swedes as the match progressed.

With matches against more highly regarded sides in Brazil and China remaining, Sweden was in a position where they could ill afford to drop points Wednesday if they wanted to be in position to grab a quality spot in the knockout stage.

Sweden (1W-0D-0L; 3 points) will play its second match in group play Saturday, with hosts Brazil being the opposition in the second game of the doubleheader at the Olympic Stadium. South Africa (0W-0D-1L; 0 points) takes on China Saturday evening in the match that precedes Sweden vs. Brazil at the Olympic Stadium.