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Sweden upsets Germany to burst back into Women’s World Cup semifinals. Nothing, it appears, can shake Sweden. Now it will play for a spot in the World Cup final. Its clinical 2-1 unmasking of favorite Germany on Saturday had every Swedish element. The defending was top-notch. The finishes were effective, but not flashy. The chemistry and creativity, anything but spontaneous
Germany had gone ahead through Lina Magull's acrobatic finish but Sweden responded when Sofia Jakobsson ran clear on goal and coolly finished. Stina Blackstenius poked in from close range early in the second half and they managed to hold on to their lead. Sweden's semi-final opponents are the Netherlands, who defeated Italy 2-0.
The vintage performance earned a measure of revenge for the world’s ninth-ranked side, which lost to Germany in the 2016 Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro. It snapped a winless streak of 11 major tournament matches (10 losses, one draw) against Germany since 1995. The defeat of the second-ranked Germans, meanwhile, will surely set the winner of Tuesday’s semifinal between No. 1 United States and No. 3 England as the favorite to take home the World Cup.
Sweden and the Netherlands join Great Britain - who benefit from England's run to the last four - in qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as the top three European teams at the World Cup. With their pedigree in the women's game, Martina Voss-Tecklenberg's Germany side were heavy favourites to progress having triumphed in the tournament in 2003 and 2007, as well as claiming eight European Championship titles. Chelsea's Swedish defender Magdalena Eriksson had spoken before the game about being "tired of hearing about this German ghost", having not beaten their opponents in a major tournament since 1995 and losing to them in four major finals, including the 2003 showpiece.
But Sweden, the 2003 World Cup runner-up and now a four-time semifinalist, was unshaken. Sofia Jakobsson scored in the 22nd minute off a long through ball. From there, the Swedes continued to defend and sweep clearances until they found the feet of Jakobsson and Stina Blackstenius, who sat up high.
The defeat will hurt German football. Their aura of invincibility has not just slipped, it is in danger of being erased completely. This is the second major tournament in a row they have underwhelmed, having also been dumped out of the Euros by Denmark two years ago. Once the dominant power in European football, these are worrying times.
Since losing to them in the 2003 World Cup, Sweden have only tasted defeat against Germany, a bitter, unpleasant pill, that has been difficult to swallow. The hope, this time, was that things would be different, that the law of averages said they had to beat win at some point, eventually their luck had to change. There was not a better time for it to happen.
Sweden are a tall, athletic side and might have taken the lead when Sofia Jakobsson was played in, but the angle favoured the goalkeeper Almuth Schult who saved with her feet. From the corner, Magdalena Eriksson headed over. Sweden had started well, were holding their own, but there was something worrying about the way Germany’s attacking players moved with the ball. Maybe it was their speed over the ground, they were stretching the legs of the defence inside the opening few minutes. Sweden were stretched, relying on last ditch tackles and clearances, whether it was by an extended leg or strained neck muscles, Germany were causing problems.
That creates pressure, which forces mistakes, Eriksson passing the ball straight to Lina Magull, who exchanged passes with Sara Daebritz through the middle of a panicked backline and finished well. That might have been the end of it, but Sweden recovered and equalised, Jakobsson again played in behind the defence and this time, from a more central position, the angle favoured the striker and she was able to slide a shot beyond the goalkeeper’s boot and inside the post. It was the first goal Germany have conceded at the World Cup. It got a response, Germany seizing control of possession and territory, but Sweden were organised and diligent and, when the chance arose, were able to break. Had Stina Blackstenius got her head up and spotted Jakobsson was unmarked, sprinting down the left, she could have played her in on goal.
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