October 3, 2023

Brighton Journal

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Sweden beats Japan to reach the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup

Sweden beats Japan to reach the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup

The Women’s World Cup of change, unexpected early departures and tempting arrivals have completed the upending of certainties and traditions.

No previous champion is left in the tournament with two rounds to play.

Gone prematurely are the United States, with four world championships, and Germany, with two. Ostde is Norway, victorious in 1995. And now Japan, the 2011 winners, are knocked out in the quarter-finals with a 2-1 defeat by Sweden on Friday in Auckland, New Zealand.

Of course, it would be very inaccurate to consider Sweden a rebel. She has competed in all nine Women’s World Cup finals, finishing second in 2003 and third three times. But she has never won a major tournament and is eager to be champion for the first time.

Sweden will face Spain in the semi-finals after stifling Japan’s mixed attack in the first half and then defending their championship in the second half. He built what appeared to be a safe lead early in the second half by scoring twice obliquely in his major, set pieces, then held Japan, desperate and energetic, who advanced with a ferocious, if futile charge.

Japan, who scored 14 goals in their first four matches and looked like a decent selection as the best team remaining in the tournament, didn’t shoot in the first half. But she got up just as the exit door loomed, creating furious chances in the second half. But she will long regret a missed penalty kick in the 75th minute.

“We fought so hard because we wanted to,” Japan’s captain Saki Kumagai said, tearfully. “We want to go to the next round, of course.”

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Sweden’s victory, Spain’s first trip to the semi-finals and Japan’s exit seemed in keeping with the spirit of a World Cup with the tournament’s largest stadium ever; the highest attendance at this stage; and a more accepting embrace of the up-and-coming and scouting ambitions of teams like Colombia, Jamaica, Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco.

Finally, FIFA can start by stating with some legitimacy that the Women’s World Cup offers a global event, rather than just a regional or well-established prospect. The other side of the draw is a similar reversal of this growth: Australia will face France, and England, European champions, will play Colombia.

On Friday, Sweden pushed hard through the first half to stifle Japan’s attacks. But when the Swedes had the ball, he was patient, using short passes to maintain possession and looking for a long ball to take advantage of their height and aerial skills.

In the 32nd minute, Sweden’s mastery of set-pieces resulted in a difficult goal. Six of his 11 goals in the tournament have come directly or indirectly from set-pieces – four from corner kicks. This time, midfielder Kosovare Asllani’s free kick rebounded into the penalty area and defender Magdalena Eriksson kept the play alive with three shots in the ball. Finally, it fell to fellow centre-back, Amanda Ellistite, who scored from inside the six-yard box.

“I thought, ‘I’ll put it away now,’” Ilestedt said. “So that was a great feeling.”

Even before that, Sweden had set a physical tone against smaller and younger Japanese players.

“They didn’t play, like, a physical team until they played us,” said Swedish substitute Sofia Jacobson, who plays for San Diego in the National Women’s Soccer League. “We are bigger than them and we can go into tougher interventions.”

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As the second half opened, Japan’s goalkeeper, Ayaka Yamashita, fired a shot wide from Johanna Kanried, giving Sweden a corner kick. Fuka Nagano touched the ball as the corner went into the crowd in front of Japan’s goal, and after a video review, a penalty was awarded to Sweden. Filippa Adengeldal fired the ball low and to the left to give Sweden a 2-0 lead.

It wasn’t safe.

“Something happened,” Jacobson said. “I don’t know if they’re growing in the game or if we’re just getting more tired.”

After playing more defensively in the first half, Japan’s attack was revitalized by substitute Jun Endo. Sweden expected a strong comeback, with Eriksson warning before that match that Japan’s attack could “come from anywhere and they’ll never stop”. Her comment proved prophetic.

In the 75th minute, Japan won a penalty when Sweden’s Madeleine Janogy snapped her heel. But Yueki’s shot hit the crossbar, and the rebound’s header bounced high over the goal. It was then suggested to Sweden’s left-back, Jona Andersson, that her side are living a charmed life in the knockout rounds, having survived a penalty shootout just five days earlier to knock out the United States.

Anderson smiled and said she’d rather believe it was the imposing presence of Sweden’s formidable goalkeeper, Zysira Mosović, rather than luck, that made the difference again, at least in Yueki’s attempt. “Maybe he’s a good goalkeeper who takes some energy or annoys the penalty taker,” Anderson said.

In the 87th minute, Japan finally scored on a rebound by Honoka Hayashi after being gifted an easy shot by Sweden on Mosović. But even 10 minutes of extra time was enough to find the equaliser.

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Japan went. And waiting for the champion of the Women’s World Cup for the first time the moment of coronation.

“I think we have a team to go all the way,” Anderson said. “Now we are one step closer.”