Japan vs. Sweden
The field has now been cut from eight to four, as the FIFA Women’s World Cup moves to the Semifinal stage. This match sees Japan and Sweden battle it out at Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt, Germany for a place in the Final, the loser will be relegated to the third place match.
Japan have turned themselves into something of a giant killer, defeating the hosts and two time defending champions Germany by a 1-0 score line in extra time. This team knew going into that match they were undersized but used their technique, passing and movement to level the playing field, they hung in with the spectators against them and in the 108 th min substitute Karina Maruyama scored what would be the winning goal. Coach Norio Sasaki will have liked the way his team played and will want them to emulate that performance against Sweden, who like Germany has a significant height and weight advantage. This team will go as far as their captain Homare Sawa will take them, but just as important will be the playmaking of Aya Miyama as well as the defensive solidity of Azusa Iwashimizu and Saki Kumagai. What works to Japan’s advantage is they never get rattled even if they go down a goal, their composure will once again be tested in this match and we’ll see if the pressure of possibly making it the farthest they have ever gone will get to them.
As for Sweden, they were the only nation to end their Quarterfinal match in regulation time and had the advantage of knowing who they would face going into their match with Australia. For the first time in the tournament this team showed they could finish their chances and not have to grind out a result, this will be a huge relief going into what is a tough match. However if history is anything to go by the Swedes may just favor this match, in their previous FIFA Women’s World Cup meetings the Scandinavians won twice, 8-0 in 1991 and 2-0 in 1995. Coach Thomas Dennerby will need one more big performance from the likes of captain Caroline Seger, Lisa Dahlkvist and Therese Sjögran. Although she plays the midfield Dahlkvist has seemed to replace Jessica Landström in the starting XI and is producing with three goals in her last four matches.
I haven’t been terribly convinced of Sweden till now and to be honest I still have some questions, however I think Japan will feel a bit drained having played what felt like a World Cup Final and have put so much energy into that match they may have nothing left to give. I’ll take Sweden in this match, they finally showed they could score and that might be the catalyst they need to finally get over the hump.
Sweden +120 Japan