Spain, Sweden advance to Women’s World Cup semifinals

Sports Desk, Aug 11 (EFE).- Spain downed the Netherlands 2-1 in extra time and Sweden beat Japan by the same score to book spots in the semifinals of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Japan’s defeat, following the earlier elimination of four-time champions the United States, Germany (2 titles), and Norway (1995), ensures that whoever hoists the trophy will be a first-time World Cup winner.

Spain had to work hard to get past the Oranje, the 2019 runners-up, despite dominating possession – 62 percent – and outshooting the Dutch 28-10.

La Roja had all the chances in the first half, but the post denied Alba Redondo twice in the space of seconds in the 16th minute and Dutch goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar dealt with all other threats except a shot from Esther Gonzalez that crossed the line in the 37th only to be disallowed for offside.

The Netherlands had a penalty overturned in the 62nd minute, but VAR upheld a penalty to Spain for hand ball in the 79th and Mariona Caldentey got the better of Van Domselaar to put La Roja up 1-0.

Stefanie van der Gragt, the offender on the hand ball, redeemed herself by equalizing in the 91st minute and the match in Wellington went to extra time.

Lineth Beerensteyn grazed the outside of the post on an opportunity to grab the lead for the Oranje in the 107th minute, four minutes before Salma Paralluelo gave Spain the edge with her first World Cup goal, which turned out to be enough to send La Roja to the final four for the first time.

Their opponent in the next round will be Sweden, who finished third in 2019 and have reached the semis on four previous occasions.

Japan, the 2011 champions, struggled on the attack against the Swedes and the Nordic side led 1-0 at the break on a goal by defender Amanda Ilestedt, her fourth of the tournament.

Only a great save in the 42nd minute by Japan keeper Ayaka Yamashita prevented Kosovare Asllani from making it 2-0 for Sweden at the intermission.

Yamashita did well to stop Rytting Kaneryd two minutes into the second half, but couldn’t deny Filippa Angeldahl from the spot in the 51st minute after VAR awarded Sweden a penalty for hand ball in the box.

As the game entered the final 30 minutes of regulation, Japan came to life and started putting pressure on the Sweden goal.

In the 75th minute, Swedish sub Madelen Janogy took down Riko Ueki in the area and the referee pointed to the spot, but Japan’s hopes were dashed when the striker’s shot bounced off the cross-bar.

Another opportunity materialized in the 87th with a free-kick in front of goal. Though the kick clanged off the woodwork, Sweden failed to clear and sub Honoka Hayashi beat keeper Zecira Musovic to narrow the deficit to 2-1.

Musovic knocked away an Ueki effort off a corner in stoppage time and the Swedes held off the Japanese to advance.

EFE /dr

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