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Sweden stuns Japan 2-1 to advance to the semi-finals

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 11: Amanda Ellstedt of Sweden celebrates her team's 2-1 victory and advanced to the semi-finals after the quarter-final match of the Women's World Cup Australia-New Zealand 2023 between Japan and Sweden at Eden Park on August 11, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Sweden are heading into the semi-finals of the 2023 Women’s World Cup after defeating the mighty Japanese team. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

There will be a champion for the first time at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Japan, the only remaining World Cup winners, were shocked by Sweden on Friday, losing 2-1. The 2011 World Cup champions head home, while Sweden advance to the semi-finals.

Amanda Ellstedt of Sweden opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, finding the ball curled into the net thanks to a set piece.

Sweden’s game plan changed in the second half, especially after they opened the game with a goal from Philippa Engeldahl, which gave them a 2-0 advantage. They kept pressing in the first half, but with a two-goal lead, spent the second half defending that lead.

There was some late drama when Japan finally broke through with just three minutes left, with Honoka Hayashi scoring after several shots off the crossbar – including a penalty from Reiko Yuki.

Things could have gotten interesting if Japan had managed to equalize in the final few minutes, but time ran out without an equalizer and Sweden celebrated on the field.

Japan looked virtually unbeatable before their match with Sweden. They have won each of their four previous World Cup matches by at least two goals. They beat Spain, the main rival, 4-0 in the group stage. They scored 14 goals in total against their opponents, while all of their opponents combined could only score one goal against them.

So how did Sweden overcome such a powerhouse? They put pressure on Japan, and they were tough. Japan did not strike their first shot until the 25th minute, when Sweden put out all their attacks.

“We were talking about getting close to them and keeping up the pressure,” striker Sofia Jacobson said after the match. Via The New York Times. “If we can’t win the first ball, we go in for the second, and I think that really worked for the first one until we scored the second goal. Japan was growing and putting pressure on us, but I’m very proud of the way the team played.”

Sweden will now face Spain, who beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Friday, in the semi-finals.

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