Japan ended Sweden’s dream of world football conquest, dealing the Blue and Yellow a 3-1 defeat July 13 in the semifinals of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Frankfurt, Germany.
The nimble Asian power danced and darted around a Swedish side that often looked bewildered by its opponent’s ability to hold the ball for long periods of time before mounting rapid attacks on goal. The Japanese limited Sweden to just one shot on goal and held possession for more than 60 percent of the match.

“Everyone could see Japan was the better side,” said Sweden manager Thomas Dennerby. “We were in the game for the first 30 minutes, but then they scored with their first opportunity. It was a tough match. Japan simply wanted it more than we did. They put in an outstanding tactical display.”
Sweden took a blow even before the match started as captain and midfield engine Caroline Seger took herself out of the lineup after suffering a calf injury. Seger injured her leg earlier in the week in training and re-aggravating the injury as she tried to warm up. Dennerby put Maria Hammarström into the lineup and, in a somewhat controversial decision, scrapped his usual tactical formation.
Instead playing a 4-4-2, in which Dennerby partnered Lotta Schelin and a resurgent Josefine Öqvist in front, the Sweden manager ran his team out in a 4-5-1. He pulled Öqvist into a somewhat unfamiliar role of a withdrawn center forward/center midfielder and left Schelin as the lone striker.
At first, the ploy seemed to work as Sweden took the lead after just 10 minutes.
Japanese captain Homare Sawa made a rare bad pass that Öqvist intercepted. She bulled her way past Azusa Iwashimnzu before lauching a shot that easily beat Japanese net minder Ayumi Kaihori.


Öqvist also had a hand in the next scoring opportunity nine minutes later, which, unfortunately for Sweden, tied the match for the blue-clad Japanese. Shinobu Ohna powered down the middle of the field before laying the ball off to Aya Miyama, who lofted in a cross from the left flank. Nahomi Kawasumi collected the pass and uncorked a shot that deflected off Öqvist and beat Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
Following a spell in which the teams traded spells of possession, the game's next real chance came when Japan won a free-kick on the edge of the area after Charlotte Rohlin foued Kawasumi. Miyama took the free-kick, which almost caught Lindahl off-guard before she recovered well to push the ball around her right-hand post.
The match became a battle between Japan’s neat, fast passing game and Sweden’s ability on set pieces and its physical strength. The Swedes packed the middle of the field, surrendering the wings to the Asians, who at first didn’t know how to exploit the advantage. Once the Japanese stopped trying to ram the ball down the center of the field, it found space to create opportunities, but lacked the final touch up front.

“Japan played really well and we just could not break them down,” said Sweden captain Charlotte Rohlin. “We had the perfect start when Josefine scored in the tenth minute, but we couldn’t build on that. It seemed as though they broke down every single attack we had. Even our set-pieces didn't work.”
The Japanese came out in the second half determined to turn their territorial advantage into goals. The Asians almost took the lead five minutes after the interval when Ohno’s dipping half-volley clipped the top of the crossbar. Ten minutes later Japan got its lead.
After good build-up play down the right, the Ohno struck an in-swinging cross into the Swedish penalty area. Lindahl came off her line to snare the cross claim it but she didn’t see Sawa lurking in the box. The Japanese captain cut in front of Lindahl and headed the ball home for a 2-1 lead.
Four minutes later Japan doubled its advantage. Lindahl came out to deal with a long ball which seemed destined to reach Kozue Ando, but her clearance fell straight to Kawasumi, who hit a hopeful shot from 35 yards. The 25-year-old forward seemed as delighted as the Japanese fans to see her effort fly over the Swedish goalkeeper and defense and ripple the back of the net.
Sweden now plays for third place against France, which lost 3-1 to the United States. The bronze-medal game is Saturday.
by Chipp Reid