Swedes shatter Australian dream (2:1)
FIFA Women's World Cup runners-up Sweden are through to the last four of the Olympic Football Tournament after a deserved 2-1 quarter-final victory over Australia. Coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors' team improved dramatically on their humdrum group stage form, shattering Australian dreams with goals from Hanna Ljungberg and Sarah Larsson to set up a re-run of the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003 quarter-final against Brazil. With nothing to lose, Australia piled forward in a dramatic last quarter of an hour, but the Swedes hung on for victory despite substitute Lisa de Vanna's late reply.
The sides opened at a respectful pace with no obvious inclination to take risks, and 15 placid minutes had gone by before the first scoring chance. Victoria Svensson got on the end of a Therese Sjögran corner but her vicious drive from 11 metres cannoned off the crossbar with Australia keeper Cassandra Kell well beaten.
The narrow escape served as a wake-up call to the Australians, and Heather Garriock fired in a left-wing cross on 23 minutes only for Danielle Small to squander a presentable opportunity. Overall, Sweden looked the stronger and took the lead on 25 minutes. The ball spun loose after Malin Moström and Sally Shiphard collided, veteran striker Hanna Ljungberg claiming possession and covering a good 30 metres before steering a precise left-foot shot past Kell.
The Scandinavians kept up the pressure and added a second on the half-hour. Svensson flicked on Kristin Bengtsson's corner for Sarah Larsson to direct a header over Kell from five metres and double the advantage. The Australians fought to escape the European stranglehold, Joanne Peters beating Larsson in the tackle on 36 minutes but firing just wide of keeper Caroline Jönsson's goal. Australia coach Adrian Santrac reacted by pulling out midfielder Small and sending on Lisa de Vanna, a second out-and-out striker. Garriock fired over on 38 minutes as the Australians enjoyed their best attacking spell, although clear-cut chances were few and far between.
The first chance of the second period fell to Ljungberg seven minutes after the restart but her header from 14 metres shaved the post. Moström's cross-cum-shot three minutes later landed on top of the crossbar, but the Swedes enjoyed a let-off on 56 minutes as Marklund carelessly handed possession to de Vanna only for the sub's nerve to fail when it mattered. Cheryl Salisbury's 59th minute header from Gillian Foster's corner sailed just over the bar, prompting Santrac to play his final ace in the shape of a third striker, Selin Kuralay. The Swedes had room to counter and Ljungberg might have done better from five metres after Larsson's 65th minute cross, while Sjöström duped Shiphard in the 78th minute but her weak effort failed to trouble Kell.
With 11 minutes remaining, the Australians were finally rewarded for their never-say-die attitude as de Vanna robbed Marklund and advanced on goal before coolly slotting home from five metres to reduce the arrears. The Swedes were under tremendous pressure now and both Kuralay and the outstanding Garriock came close as the Scandinavian rearguard tottered, but Sarah Walsh's 87th minute header from Garriock's flighted free-kick was to be the last chance of the game.
Sweden coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors was delighted with the result: "I'm over the moon. I thought we played extremely well in the first half. Australia brought on a new striker in the second period and switched things around, but we kept battling and at the end of the day and we've held on for the victory."
Malin Moström turned her attention to the daunting semi-final meeting with Brazil: "We have to concentrate on our own game and keep it aggressive and compact. If we do, I think we can win."
Australia boss Santrac commented: "I think the big difference today was experience. We turned up the heat in the second half, like we did against the USA, but we just couldn't get another goal."
Captain Cheryl Salisbury observed: "We've shown today we can compete with the best. If this team stays together, it has a real future."