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Wahlberg states case for Sweden's defence

Sweden centre-back Julia Wahlberg enjoyed pitting her defensive wits against Germany but knows her team must also show their attacking merit if they are to get out of Group B.

Julia Wahlberg (right) in action against Germany on Monday
Julia Wahlberg (right) in action against Germany on Monday ©Getty Images

You could say that Julia Wahlberg had a busy shift on Wednesday. The defender was part of a Sweden back line thoroughly resolved to keep out a Germany team who, three days before, had scored five first-half goals against Norway.

While Wahlberg and company held out longer than their Scandinavian neighbours, the Swedish resistance was finally ended around the hour mark. A second Pauline Bremer goal six minutes from time left them beaten – but far from bowed.

"I think we did OK and it was a decent game," said Wahlberg. "Germany are very good and we had a lot of defending to do. We didn't have much of the ball or get to do much attacking. The first half was good from us as we kept it close. After half-time we got a bit tired, but we shouldn't be too down about this result."

For the 17-year-old centre-back, who plays in central midfield for club side Jitex BK, facing the four-time European champions provided an invaluable lesson in the defensive arts. "We're good at the defending – the blocks and the tackles!" the No6 said. "Although we tired in the second half, strangely we had learned from the first – when we were a bit nervous and didn't know exactly how Germany were going to play. We actually figured out how to play against them, and not just at the back but offensively too."

Sweden's refusal to yield to their northern European rivals in Haverfordwest was admirable – with Germany simply unable to break them down through the middle and relying on crosses for their eventual goals. "We have to keep going and see it as a lesson learned," noted the Gotenburg-based student. "So if we play Germany in the final, we'll have to do something else to win."

However, if Sweden are even to progress from Group B, the title holders need to catch a Finland team stationed three points above them in second spot, behind the already qualified Germans. Their attacking merits must therefore take priority in their final group fixture against Norway in Llanelli on Sunday. "Next game we have to play a bit more and be a bit more offensive," said Wahlberg – whose name is pronounced more as 'Wahl-berry' than after her big-screen namesake, US actor Mark. "The German game was a bit special but normally we don't have a probably getting into attacking situations."

Wahlberg would like nothing better than an extended campaign here in south-west Wales. Having been limited to substitute cameos at last summer's WU19 finals in Turkey, she has savoured all 180 minutes of Swedish action – including Monday's draw with Finland. "I played last year," she said. "I was on the bench or coming on for 20 minutes, now I'm starting here. It's great fun to play international tournaments – it's high speed with a lot of good players. With the speed and physicality, it's a good learning curve."

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