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Ilestedt Scores Twice, Sweden Beats Italy

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - After leaving it to the last minute against South Africa, Sweden left nothing to chance Saturday in a 5-0 win over Italy which sealed its place in the knockout rounds of the Women's World Cup.

Sweden relied on Amanda Ilestedt's 90th-minute winner to salvage a 2-1 win from a sub-par performance in its opener against South Africa.

Ilestedt was Sweden's first scorer Saturday, this time in the 39th, and her glancing header from a corner sparked a flood of four Swedish goals in 11 minutes on either side of halftime. Her second goal came in the 50th and was a mirror image of the first.

Rebecka Blomqvist finished it off in stoppage time with Sweden's fifth goal.

The Swedish attack again looked hesitant in the first 20 minutes. Italy appeared more composed over the ball in that period and more threatening with Sofia Cantore particularly dangerous on the right.

Sweden's Amanda Ilestedt, left, and Italy's Sofia Cantore in action during the Women's World Cup Group G match between the Sweden and Italy in Wellington, New Zealand, July 29, 2023. Sweden's Amanda Ilestedt, left, and Italy's Sofia Cantore in action during the Women's World Cup Group G match between the Sweden and Italy in Wellington, New Zealand, July 29, 2023.

But as the first half progressed, Sweden began to look more composed, more organized and then more ruthless. The crowd of just over 29,000 appeared to sense the change.

Joanna Andersson curled the ball in from the right in the 39th, and Ilestedt rose highest at the near post to glance the ball on a narrow angle into the net.

Fridolina Rolfo looked certain to score in the 43rd, one-on-one with Francesca Durante, but the goalkeeper threw herself toward Rolfo's feet and snuffed out the threat.

Sweden's Rebecka Blomqvist, left, celebrates scoring her side's 5th goal during the Women's World Cup Group G match between Sweden and Italy in Wellington, New Zealand, July 29, 2023. Sweden's Rebecka Blomqvist, left, celebrates scoring her side's 5th goal during the Women's World Cup Group G match between Sweden and Italy in Wellington, New Zealand, July 29, 2023.

Rolfo had to wait only moments for her second goal of the tournament. Another corner and this time the delivery eluded Durante and found Rolfo on the far post who headed home.

Rolfo turned deliverer in the first minute of stoppage time. Sent clear by a neat back-heel she passed low and beyond Durante, finding Stina Blackstenius, who tapped in; her goal was her 29th for the national team.

Sweden led 3-0 at halftime, and the scoring continued after the break. On a corner in the 50th, Ilestedt was on station at the near post to head home.

The clinical nature of Sweden's attack was highlighted by the fact possession was almost evenly shared. But Sweden had 14 shots on target, Italy four and the Italians will be haunted by Sweden's seven corners, all of which represented an immediate danger.

Ilestedt was player of the match and in every sense a towering figure in attack. Blackstenius, Rolfo and Asllani also were back in form and there was every sign Saturday the third-ranked Swedes are peaking at the right time.

Italy heads back to the drawing board with the first order of business to address its defense from set pieces.