Women's football at Tokyo 2020: Sweden sails past Japan; USA downs the Netherlands

Sweden, the 2016 Rio Olympics silver medallist, beat the host nation 3-1 in the quarterfinal at Saitama on Friday.

Swedish footballers Hanna Bennison and Madelen Janogy celebrate their win against Japan at the Saitama Stadium on Friday.

Host Japan put up a valiant fight but had to surrender eventually to the superiority of Sweden, which struck twice after the break following a deadlocked first half (1-1) to win the women’s football quarterfinal at Saitama 3-1.

The 2016 Rio Olympics silver medallist played true to its form and dominated the proceedings right from the start. But a resolute Japan, which moved to the last-eight stage as one of the two best third-placed teams, defied the odds to put up a tough challenge.

It was quite certain for the Japanese that the in-form Swedes, who beat the pre-tournament favourite the United States before winning all its three group league outings, were the strongest opponent they could expect in the tournament. Sweden saw its efforts rewarded in the seventh minute when its Chelsea defender Magdalena Eriksson leapt above the Japan defenders to nod home an assist from Barcelona forward Fridolina Rolfo.

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Japan regrouped soon after and found the equaliser in the 23rd minute. The host successfully mounted a speedy counter-attack and saw forward Mina Tanaka, who latched on to a Yui Hasegawa cross, finishing the move. Japan lost a good chance of finding the lead at the half-hour mark when a penalty kick awarded to it was overturned by a VAR review. Japan saw Risa Shimizu and Sugita testing the Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl soon after the break but it was the Swedish forward Stina Blackstenius who found the target in the 53rd minute (2-1).

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Sweden took the match beyond Japan’s grasp in the 68th when the Real Madrid attacker Kosovare Asllani got her penalty kick right to insure her team’s victory.

Sweden will play Australia, which got the better of Great Britain in the extra-time 4-3, in the semifinals scheduled on August 2. The other semifinal contest will feature the North American neighbours, the United States against Canada.

The two sides progressed to the last four stage in a similar fashion by beating their opponents on penalties. The United States, which beat the European champion the Netherlands, saw its goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher emerging as the saviour. Naeher saved a penalty in the 80th minute of the regulation time and blocked a couple of Dutch attempts in the shoot-outs after the two sides remained tied 2-2 at the end of the extra-time.

Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe did it for Canada by making two crucial saves in the tie-breakers to beat South American giant Brazil. The two teams were locked goalless after 120 minutes of action.

The results:

Quarterfinals:

At Rifu: Canada 0 (4) bt Brazil 0 (3) on penalties;

At Kashima: Great Britain 3 (Ellen White 57, 66, 115) lost to Australia 4 (Stephanie Kennedy 35, Samantha Kerr 89, 106, Mary Fowler 103);

At Saitama: Sweden 3 (Magdalena Eriksson 7, Stina Blackstenius 53, Kosovare Asllani 68-pen) bt Japan 1 (Mina Tanaka 23);

At Yokohama: Netherlands 2 (2) (Vivianne Miedema 18, 54) lost to United States 2 (4) (Samanth Mewis 28, Lynn Williams 31) on penalties.