Victor Lindelof produced a heroic defensive performance alongside captain Andreas Granqvist during Sweden’s 3-0 win over Mexico which saw them top Group F on a day which saw defending champions Germany finish bottom of their group.
The 23-year-old, who missed Sweden’s opening game but produced a solid display in defeat to Germany last weekend, repelled a hitherto dangerous Mexico side with style and efficiency.
What impressed the most was his reading of the game and, crucially, the way he positioned himself – something he struggled with at Manchester United last season – in a way which stopped Mexican attacks from developing.
His resilience at the back gave Sweden a platform to run away with the game and can now look forward to a very winnable last 16 clash with Switzerland.
Jose Mourinho has spent a significant part of this summer looking for a new central defender, with Toby Alderweireld and Kalidou Koulibaly emerging as targets, but on this evidence he needn’t worry about adding new reinforcements.
Lindelof failed to impose himself on the Man United side last term – initially because he simply didn’t seem aggressive enough and later because Mourinho trusted the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones more to hold their nerve at the back. His two showings at the World Cup so far, however, serve as the perfect response in that respect. He has been calm, organised, steely.
His problems at Old Trafford have been essentially psychological rather than anything to do with ability. There is a case to be made that he is, in fact, United’s most complete centre back given his prowess on the ball.
World Cups have the potential to revolutionise a player’s mindset and, by extension, their career. Supporters will certainly hope Lindelof can use this tournament – even if he goes no further – as a springboard for establishing his place in Mourinho’s starting XI next season.