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Women's Football

Big four shine in Swedish sun, Asian elite shape up

Sweden's Lotta Schelin jubilates after scoring
© AFP reviews the latest international news highlighted by the stunning success of the 2013 UEFA Women’s EURO, both on and off the field. Records crowds have flocked to the six venues in Sweden over the past fortnight, with most of the knockout matches played in front of sold-out stadiums. On the field the latest results provided joy for some traditional powerhouses of women’s football as Northern Europe dominated the semi-final line-up. Across the globe another hugely strong cluster of nations are contesting the EAFF East Asian Cup, highlighted by world champions Japan.

Hosts’ momentum surges
Sweden made a slow start to their 2013 UEFA Women’s EURO campaign drawing 1-1 with an energised Denmark in their opener, with the* Blagult’s* lethargic performance typified by two missed penalties. Since then, however, the hosts have developed substantial impetus by seeing off Finland 5-0, Italy 3-1 and finally, Iceland 4-0 in Sunday’s quarter-final. The win was Sweden’s first in a knockout match at the tournament for 12 years. Lotta Schelin is also on target to end Germany’s 16-year grip on the top goalscorers award with the Sweden striker hitting the net five times, two more than team-mate Nilla Fischer, while a clutch of players are on two goals apiece.

Champs stumble in title defence
The home nation’s reward is a match-up with reigning champions Germany in a potentially epic semi-final on Wednesday, and a re-run of the 1995 and 2001 title-deciders. Missing numerous key personnel at Sweden 2013 due to injury, the Germans were nevertheless uncharacteristically lacking in rhythm during the group stage. Silvia Neid’s side were firstly held to a scoreless draw by the Netherlands, before bouncing back to defeat Iceland. However, Germany then crashed to a 1-0 defeat against Norway; a result which ended the holders' incredible 59-game 17-year unbeaten streak in the tournament, including qualifiers. However, a lone first-half strike from Germany’s Simone Laudehr saw off a tough challenge from Antonio Cabrini’s Italy in their last eight clash.

Norway continue form
One of the tournament highlights has been the ongoing revival of Norway under iconic coach Even Pellerud. A group-stage exit at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ is starting to feel like a distant memory, with Norway following up a third-place finish at this year’s Algarve Cup by showing impressive form in neighbouring Sweden during the past fortnight. Two wins and a draw in the group stage, were followed up a dominant 3-1 victory over Spain in the quarter-final, with several graduates of last year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup team impressing for the Gresshoppene.

*New-look Denmark shines *Denmark claimed the biggest shock of the quarter-finals by eliminating France on penalties. Johanna Rasmussen had the Danes in front, with Louisa Necib equalising from the penalty spot. However, after extra time could not separate the teams, Necib and Sabrina Delannoy failed to score in the shoot-out leaving Les Bleues eliminated at the quarter-final stage on penalties for the second successive tournament. Despite impressing at times with a fluent possession-based brand of football, Denmark only scraped into the knockout stage at Russia’s expense following the drawing of lots.

*East Asian elite shape up *
Japan and Korea DPR are setting the early pace at the EAFF East Asian Cup in Seoul. The pair opened the four-nation event on the weekend with hard-fought victories over China PR and Korea Republic respectively. Ho Eun-Byol grabbed two goals in quick succession during the first half at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, as the North Koreans erased a one-goal deficit to defeat Korea Republic for the tenth time in their last twelve showdowns. Kim Sooyun had put the home side in front midway through the half.

World champions Japan – hunting their third straight title - needed goals in either half from Kozue Ando and Emi Nakajima to quell the challenge of the former FIFA Women’s World Cup runners-up. China PR eliminated Asian champions Australia during the preliminary stage late last year to qualify for the tournament, again providing evidence of the quality of women’s football in the region.

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