Sweden are into the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ for a fifth time after a narrow victory over Japan.
Amanda Ilestedt fired home her fourth goal of the tournament in the first half, before Filippa Angeldal’s penalty gave Sweden daylight. Japan’s Riko Ueki went on to hit the bar from a spot-kick of her own. Honoka Hayashi would halve the deficit with a close-range strike, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Sweden from going through.
After toppling reigning champions USA in the Round of 16, Sweden returned to action full of confidence and it showed. Stina Blackstenius had the first real opening of the game for the Europeans in the first half, but her skewed effort fell wide of the mark.
Moments later, though, the breakthrough did come, with unlikely adidas Golden Boot challenger Amanda Ilestedt scoring her fourth of the tournament so far. It came from a set piece, with a scramble in the box seeing the defender react quickest to fire home.
Sweden very nearly doubled their tally just before the interval, after Kosovare Asllani’s fizzing volley was parried onto the post by Ayaka Yamashita, rolling along the line before Japan scrambled the ball to safety.
Five minutes into the second half Sweden were awarded a penalty following a handball in the Japan box. Manchester City midfielder Filippa Angeldahl stepped up and sent Yamashita the wrong way, burying her spot-kick into the bottom corner to double her nation’s advantage.
The Nadeshiko grew into the game from there, though, and were gifted a golden opportunity to get back into it with a penalty of their own. But second-half substitute Ueki could only watch on as her effort ricocheted off the crossbar.
Despite the miss, Japan gained momentum from and were inches away from getting on the scoresheet from 19-year-old Aoba Fujino’s free-kick hit both the bar and the post. Their luck soon changed, though, with a sweeping strike from Hayashi setting up a grandstand finish at Eden Park.
Ultimately, though, it was not meant to be for Japan, who bow out of the competition as Sweden reach their fifth semi-final in the history of the competition. They will face Spain in the last four.