Sweden cause major upset – USA 3-4 Sweden (AET)
Sweden were the first team to reach the semi-finals after a shock win over the current holders. Despite their negative style of play drawing criticism, they worked the system well, frustrating the US and keeping their chances to a minimum.
After Stina Blackstenius latched onto a hopeful ball over the top to slip between the centre backs and slot the ball past Hope Solo into the far corner, the US ramped up the pressure. Crystal Dunn was immediately introduced and her presence proved to be the catalyst as the US resorted parity late on after Alex Morgan connected with the ball in the box to get the better of Hedvig Lindahl.
The game opened up through extra time, both teams hunting the win and both had goals disallowed deep in the second period. Firstly, Carli Lloyd was judged to her fouled her marker, pushing her to the floor to head past Lindahl and just seconds later Lotta Schelin saw her effort chalked off for an incorrect offside call.
Two completely different teams had played very different games and still it came down to spot kicks, Sweden took an early advantage as Lindahl saved Morgans’ opener. Schelin, Lindsay Horan, Kosovare Asllani and Lloyd all finished past their opposite keepers before Solo pulled off a fine save to deny Linda Sembrandt, tying things up once more.
Morgan Brian and Caroline Seger both converted before Christen Press skewed her effort over the bar. After some time-wasting from Solo, Lisa Dahlkivist thumped the ball past the Seattle Reign number one to fire Sweden into the next round.
The drama of the first quarter final somewhat knocked the stuffing out of the next match, once again one team dominated whilst their opponents did all they could to repel them. It was the usual frustrations for the German faithful who watched their country underperform and look disjointed in the final third.
It took a stunning goal from Melanie Behringer to separate the two late in the game with a trademark net-ripper to finally best Zhao Lina. There was to be a last spark of drama though as Wang Shaung went down in the box before blasting her effort against the upright and Germany cleared to safety.
From one dour game to another as Canada edged France to make it to the last four. There was nothing to separate the two as they went in at the break after a physical first-half, France the team on top but once more with nothing to show for it. As is so familiar to those who follow Les Bleues, they simply could not take their chances and as happened so many times before, their fluffed lines only encouraged their opposition.
Janine Beckie, one of the stand-out performers of the tournament so far was the difference as she dinked the ball over Sakina Karchaoui before sending a looping cross to the back-post for Sophie Schmidt to volley into the roof of the net.
Even with the introductions of Louisa Cadamuro, Elodie Thomis and Claire Lavogez, France still wheezed in the final third, their inability to finish coming up against a smart Canadian defence. Just as it was four years ago, Canada were left to celebrate as France were left empty-handed at the full-time whistle.
Penalties prove to be the difference as the hosts advance – Brazil 0-0 Australia (AET, 6-5 on pens)
As the quarter finals began so they ended with two teams that required spot-kicks to separate them. Over a breathless and somewhat, never-ending two hours Brazil and Australia went at each other full pelt. The home nation the side on top but the Matildas refused to buckle, Lydia Williams coming up trumps for her side throughout.
The match was long and gruelling, fouls given away without thought, questionable officiating, cards and injuries littered the piece, players forced off consigned to a spot on the sidelines as their side vied for a place in the semis. But after an exhausting two hours, tired legs and tired minds were forced to refocus in the noisy Mineirão.
It was of little surprise that the two sides that refused to be separated with a crowbar were neck and neck all the way through the shoot-out, Andressa Alves, Elise Kellond-Knight, Andressinha, Laura Alleway, Beatriz, Emily van Egmond, Rafaelle and Clare Polkinghorne all successful from 12 yards.
After eight clinical penalties the packed Mineirão was left stunned after Marta let fly a tame effort that was well saved by Williams, with the Matildas jumping around on the half-way line the pressure was on Katrina Gorry. But just like Marta before her, Gorry’s shot was poor and Bárbara made the save.
Once more the two remained locked as they entered sudden-death, Debinha, Michelle Heyman, Monica, Chloe Logarzo and Tamires all converted before a ragged looking Alana Kennedy saw her effort saved.
The standard was high and neither team were willing to give an inch, Australia will pick themselves up after the loss and go again but the win means so much for a Brazilian nation that has started to grow tired of the football. The women’s team giving the home fans something to cheer about after years of disappointment with the men. When Brazil square up against Sweden both will be carrying knocks, legs still heavy from two long hours before the stress of a shoot-out, the playing field levelled.
How the last four line up
The two semi-finals will both take place on Tuesday and are:
Brazil vs Sweden at 5pm (GMT) in Rio.
Canada vs Germany at 8pm (GMT) in Belo Horizonte.