Sweden exorcises Germany demon to reach semifinals

Sweden has been waiting a long time for this.

It took awhile for Germany’s biggest weakness to be exposed, too.

Stina Blackstenius scored two minutes into the second half and the Swedes beat Germany 2-1 to advance to the Women’s World Cup semifinals and exorcise some serious demons.

Sweden will now face the Netherlands on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET for a spot in the final.

This marks the first time Sweden has beaten Germany in a major tournament since the 1995 World Cup, and the list of setbacks had become so lengthy it bordered on comical. Between the World Cup, Olympics and European Championship, Sweden had lost to Germany 10 times and drawn once, with only four goals against Germany’s 18. Losses in the 2003 World Cup final and 2016 Olympic final were particularly prominent.

Sweden finally got over the hump thanks in part to Germany’s backline, which had been suspect all tournament despite not conceding over the first four games.

Blackstenius and Co. changed that. They changed a lot on Saturday.

Germany did strike first in the 16th minute, with Sara Däbritz taking a giveaway and making a run centrally before slipping through Lina Magull, who showcased a nice bit of skill to set up a volley finish:

Disinterested in letting past results hinder them this time around, the Swedes responded a few minutes later. Linda Sembrant dropped a long ball forward into the path of Sofia Jakobsson, who split German defenders Sara Doorsoun and Carolin Simon and beat goalkeeper Almuth Schult to knot the score:

It was the first goal the Germans had conceded all tournament, and in truth it had been a long time coming. Simple mistakes weren’t punished by Germany’s first four opponents, but they were against Sweden.

For instance, on Jakobsson’s goal, German center back Marina Hegering was inexplicably pulled up high to cover Blackstenius, who would have been surrounded in space even if the ball fell to her. Instead, it sailed over Hegering’s header attempt and allowed Jakobsson to get in behind.

Sensing another goal would be needed, Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg brought on Dzsenifer Marozsán to start the second half. Out since the group stage with a broken toe, the talented playmaker figured to give Germany extra threat going forward.

Instead, Sweden began the second half with a bang. Once again, Germany’s defense looked lost as Jakobsson beat Giulia Gwinn down the right flank and crossed to Fridolina Rolfö, whose header was saved well by Schult before falling right to Blackstenius:

The rest of the way, Sweden’s comfort without the ball served them well, as Germany never really came close to equalizing.

And so ended an up-and-down tournament for the Germans, who will remain the only team to win multiple Women’s World Cups other than the United States. That’s little solace, however, for the 2003 and 2007 champions, who had designs on adding a third trophy to their cabinet this summer.

They barely did enough to beat China and Spain by twin 1-0 scores in their first two games, both of which easily could have been lost. Germany followed that up with a lopsided win over minnows South Africa and a 3-0 dismantling of Nigeria, the last third-place team to advance to the knockout stage.

A couple of head-scratching lineup decisions preceded Saturday’s clash with Sweden, as Voss-Tecklenberg opted to drop striker Alexandra Popp to more of a holding midfield role while shifting Gwinn to fullback. It didn’t prove to be the right mix, no matter the level of talent.

And there is talent. Budding stars like Gwinn and Lea Schüller are 19 and 21 respectively, and all but two Germans on the World Cup roster have yet to turn 30 years old.

So they’ll be back. They just won’t be in this World Cup any longer.

The Swedes are to blame. And boy have they waited a long time to be able to say that.

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