The longest unbeaten run at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ came to an end tonight when Japan beat Sweden 3-1 to reach the final. The Nadeshiko did what Colombia, Korea DPR, USA and Australia couldn't by defeating Thomas Dennerby’s side, who prior to the semi-final had conceded a meagre two goals.
Before the competition got underway, few expected Sweden to progress beyond the first knockout round. Yet the Blagult surprisingly upset USA to finish top of Group C and avoid a quarter-final with Brazil, before overcoming Australia. And en route to the semis, they also won multiple admirers due to their well-organised and committed displays.
“The win over USA was absolutely incredible, but we played well throughout the group stage,” centre-back Charlotte Rohlin told FIFA.com. “We were well organised, but we also scored goals. I believe that we took a step forward with every game we played. We have proved that we are better than people thought we were.
“There are a lot of positives to take from this tournament and we want to go home as the side that finished third now. Before this tournament no-one gave us a chance of reaching the semi-finals. But we have shown that we are a good team, and I think that the experiences we've had in Germany have given us the self-belief that we can win something in the coming years. The future’s bright.”
Sweden finally met their match against Japan in Frankfurt. Despite taking the lead through Josefine Oqvist’s early goal, they managed just one more shot on target in the remaining 80 minutes as a brace from Nahomi Kawasumi, plus a Homare Sawa header, consigned the Scandinavians to play the match for third place against France in Sinsheim on Saturday.
“Naturally, we’re really disappointed. Japan played really well and we just could not break them down,” admitted Rohlin. “We had the perfect start when Josefine scored in the tenth minute, but we couldn’t build on that. It seemed as though they broke down every single attack we had. Even our set-pieces didn't work.
"We were beaten by the better side. Japan were just too good for us. I hope they win the World Cup because they deserve it. They will face a tough final against USA, but they can win it.”
Sweden were not helped by a calf injury to influential captain Caroline Seger in the warm-up. The 26-year-old was one of her nation's players of the tournament, providing an important link between defence and attack, which was lacking against the Americans. Seger’s understudy in the midfield, Nilla Fischer, was also suspended, giving Marie Hammerstrom her first start of the tournament – and the armband to Rohlin.
“It was a proud moment for me to be the captain, but of course we missed Caroline,” the No2 continued. “She is very important for us and she did everything that she possibly could to be involved tonight. She took the decision at a very late stage and she feels very sad now.
“As a team we had to come together and were playing for her, but we just couldn't make it. But we have one game [left] on Saturday and we are going to beat France.”
At the end of the game, the Sweden squad gathered in a circle, with Dennerby urging his players to keep their heads held high for one final push in Sinsheim. The prize is bronze - and the chance to perform their Moussier Tombola dance routine one more time for their fans in Germany.
Rohlin said: “Thomas said that we could be disappointed tonight, but wanted us to be proud of what we have achieved here and stressed that we have to come together for the game against France.
“We want to be dancing again at the final whistle, knowing that we are the third-best team in the world. I want to win that game and every single member of the team wants to win. We are going to fight until the end.”