EKATERINABURG, Russia (Reuters) - Sweden coach Janne Andersson said he was moved by the effort and loyalty of his players as they bounced back from the disappointment of a cruel defeat by Germany to beat Mexico 3-0 on Wednesday and win World Cup Group F.
Few would have predicted that Sweden could have topped the standings when Toni Kroos fired home his stoppage-time goal in Sochi, and Andersson was left raging after German officials appeared to taunt the Swedes after the defeat.
But the 55-year-old and his team advanced to the last 16 where they will face Brazil, Switzerland or Serbia, while the Germans go home after another lame performance saw them lose 2-0 to South Korea.
A further shadow was cast over Sweden’s preparations when winger Jimmy Durmaz, who conceded the free kick that led to Kroos’s late winner, was subjected to a torrent of racial abuse and threats on social media.
“We have handled the things that have happened — I’m so incredibly proud, moved almost, by the thought of how we performed in the match. They were so disciplined, so loyal in everything they did,” Andersson told reporters.
Ludwig Augustinsson put the Swedes ahead five minutes into the second half before Marcus Berg won a penalty and Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist, who scored the winner from the spot against South Korea, stepped up to take it.
“You can never be sure of anything 100 percent in sports, but I know he’s really good at taking penalties, so I did think there was a high likelihood he would score,” Andersson said.
Granqvist duly hammered it home and an own goal made it 3-0 before news filtered through of Germany’s collapse, but despite the previous run-in with German officials, Andersson said their elimination did not give him any joy.
“Not in a million years. I don’t work that way,” he stated categorically. “You play a game, you shake hands afterwards and you wish everyone well for the next game.”
Andersson and the Swedes will return to their base on the Black Sea coast, and they will find out who they face in the last 16 later on Wednesday.
The journey back to Gelendzhik promises to be a lot more pleasant than their last one following the Germany defeat.
“First in the group? Not many who would have thought that,” captain Granqvist said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor in Sochi, editing by Ed Osmond