HomeSportSweden like 'bumblebees' - can they sting Spain next?

Sweden like ‘bumblebees’ – can they sting Spain next?

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Reaching the semi-finals of a major tournament is nothing new for Sweden.The question on the lips of their jubilant fans as Abba boomed from the speakers at Eden Park on Friday was: will they win a trophy this time?An impressive 2-1 victory over a highly fancied Japan booked the Swedes a last-four date with Spain back in Auckland next Tuesday at the Women’s World Cup.Incredibly, it is the fourth major semi-final they have reached in recent years.After progressing to the last four in France at the 2019 World Cup, where they were defeated by the Netherlands, Sweden also reached the semi-finals of the 2020 Olympics and Euro 2022.Despite going deep in those tournaments and even reaching the Olympic final, where they were beaten on penalties by Canada, they have come away without a title to show for their efforts.Will they back up their eye-catching run at this World Cup by lifting the trophy in Sydney on 20 August?”The performance against Japan from the first half, up until the last 15 minutes or so, that’s the best I’ve seen Sweden play,” said former England defender Gilly Flaherty on BBC 5 Sports ExtraSweden have qualified for their fifth semi-final at the Fifa Women’s World Cup but have never won the tournamentA sting in the tail?Sweden’s best result at the World Cup came in 2003, when they lost to Germany in the final, but this time they are aiming to go one better.The likes of Spain and England may be seen as favourites in some quarters, but Sweden are not to be underestimated.”Obviously we’re not happy with a semi-final, we want to go the whole way,” captain Kosovare Asllani said after the team ranked number three in the world backed up their win over four-times world champions the USA with victory over Japan.”I believe strongly in my team and we’ll be more than ready for Tuesday.”The exit of the 2011 champions Japan, following the United States, Germany and Norway, means there are no former winners left and a new name will appear on the trophy after the final in Sydney.Will it be Sweden?”I think they had higher hopes in the Euros last summer and they’ve come in this tournament with nobody putting them in among the favourites to win it,” former England midfielder Fara Williams said on BBC One.”They’ve dismantled a very good and adaptable Japanese team in style.”Sweden boss Peter Gerhardsson said at his post-match news conference that his players were like bumblebees because they were all over the field pressing the opposition. “The players talked before to be like bumblebees,” he said before making a buzzing sound and waving his hands to show a bumblebee in flight. “They talked about this. I don’t know if we have something to prove, but as a coach and as players you are never finished.”You have to prove things all the time. It’s exciting.”Sweden’s goal machine defenderNew Arsenal defender Amanda Ilestedt set Sweden on their way with her fourth goal of the tournament – which puts her joint second in the scoring charts – before Manchester City midfielder Filippa Angeldahl doubled the lead from the penalty spot.Japan scored late through Honoka Hayashi but they could not force an equaliser despite playing 10 minutes of added time.Ilestedt was asked afterwards if Gerhardsson might play her further forward against Spain next week because of her scoring streak.”I’ve already asked him,” she joked, before adding: “I like playing as a defender.”I’m happy as long as we’re winning, but it’s fun that the ball is going in too. It feels great to be through to the semis.”We played precisely as we had discussed beforehand, sticking close to the Japanese players and making it difficult for them to play their game.”Coffee ban helps calm the nervesOne of Sweden’s secret weapons at this World Cup has been their set-pieces.Eight of the 11 goals they have scored have come from corners or free-kicks, either directly or after opponents failed to clear.Sweden’s dead-ball set-ups are often decided by assistant coach Magnus Wikman, who spends hours poring over ideas and then patiently drilling them with his players.”Sweden know their strengths, and their strengths are from set-pieces,” added Williams.Former England defender Alex Scott, speaking on BBC One, said: “They reacted quicker to every single ball. How aggressive they were, on the front foot – it’s like we saw a completely different Sweden team today than we did against the USA.”Gerhardsson, who has managed the team since 2017, gave all the plaudits to his players.”I have been a coach for so many years now, I have had such incredibly skilled players,” he said.”They are very meticulous, always interested and they always give 100%, and during tournaments like this we become more like a club team.”Gerhardsson was asked afterwards why he managed to remain so calm when Sweden scored against Japan.”I’ve stopped drinking coffee on match days. That makes me calmer,” he said.

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