The emotion was easy to see on the face of Lotta Schelin.
Midway through celebrating what should have been an equalizing goal in the semifinal of the UEFA Women’s European Championship, Schelin stared in disbelief as referee Esther Staubli disallowed the goal for a phantom foul. Just seconds before, the captain of the Swedish national women’s soccer team had run right through all of Germany to slide the ball past Nadine Angerer. Now, Schelin stood at the mid stripe of Gamla Ullevi Stadium, staring at Staubli, who bought the circus-act dive of German defender Annike Krahn and waved off the game-tying goal.
The decision sent Sweden down in defeat 1-0 July 25 against six-time reigning European champion Germany.

“You have to remember Germany is a good team,” Sundhage said at a post-game press conference. “It was all about the decision making in the offensive third of the field and we made some mistakes. When we should have taken a shot, we passed the ball and vice-versa. We created chances and could have scored a couple goals – sometimes it doesn’t work. That’s why Germany won the game today.”
Sweden was actually lucky to be in a position where just one goal would tie the match. For much of the game, the blaguld midfield was nearly non-existent as Caroline Seger and Marie Hammarstrom found themselves usually facing three or four German opponents. Wingers Samuelsson and Antonia Goransson usually remained well out of the play on the touch line, where they could not support the center duo.
If there was one area where Sweden lost match it was on set pieces - corner kicks and free kicks – which Pia Sundhage’s side simply did not execute well. As time ran out and the Swedes poured everything into attack, their decisions to play short corners or dump off free kicks played right into German hands.

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Still, time and again in the final 30 minutes of the match, Sweden had its chances. First it was Schelin. Then, Schelin sprang Josefin Oqvist with a cleverly timed ball that put Oqvist clear. Oqvist’s shpt beat everyone, only to carom off the post. Kosovare Asllani, who has been the focal point of the media coverage with her good lucks and better skills, had a pair of chances but could not find that final touch to put the ball away.

Sweden battered away at the German defenses, looking to make up for an ugly mistake that put them behind in the first half. Jessica Samuelsson failed to cleanly trap a goal kick from Kristin Hammarstrom and Lena Gossling was there to pounce on the loose ball. She put Dzenifer Marozsan through and the German striker nudged the ball past goalkeeper Hammarstrom, who had come off her line to challenge the pass.

“I am very proud of the way we played today,” Sundhage said. “We played a good game. We pushed everything we had but we were a little bit unlucky and didn’t finish well.”

And yet, for all that the media wrote about Asllani or the additions of debutants Olivia Schough and Jenny Hjohlman, this tournament belonged to Schelin. She has carried the torch of Swedish women’s soccer since Victoria Svensson, Hanna Ljungberg, Malin Mostrom and Frida Ostberg retired. She is the only player who earns who living outside of Sweden – Schelin plays for Lyon in France. Even more, she has become the face of Swedish football as it goes through a radical transition from its traditional style of old English football to something of a hybrid, brought on by an influx of immigrants from around the world as well as international players in the top Swedish leagues.
Even more than ZLatan Ibrahimovic, Schelin is very much the face of Swedish football. She wins, she inspires and she performs at her best on the biggest stage. It is something Ibrahimovic, who is a famous flop in both World Cup and European Championship play, cannot say.
“I don’t know what to say,” Schelin said after the match. “This was very tough to take. We played our hardest and had our chances but Germany are a very good team.”
This tournament was all about Schelin. During group play, in which Sweden opened with a draw against Denmark before knocking off Finland 5-0 and Italy 3-1, Schelin scored four of her team’s nine goals. In the quarterfinal against Iceland, Schelin had two goals and an assist to power Sweden to a 4-0 victory.
Then came the semifinal, a brilliant run and a poor decision from a Swiss referee.

“I still don’t know what the call was about,” Schelin said. “I don’t think it was offside, but I really don’t know. It's tough.”
Maybe the highest praise for Schelin came from Anja Mittag, who plays in Sweden for Malmo LdB.
“I enjoy playing against the best of the world and she is a world class player,” Mittag, who earned Player of the Match honors in the semifinal. “Sweden is a great offensive team. It’s a challenge I like to take and she played an incredible match.”
Sweden has never defeated Germany in a major tournament. Germany beat Sweden in the semifinals of the Euros in 1997, the final of the World Cup in 2003, the semifinals of the World Cup in 2011. This was supposed to be Sweden’s chance. Germany went into the semifinal missing six starters while Sweden was firing on all cylinders. Then came a poor play in midfield, an abysmal call by a referee and once more, Sweden watched as Germany celebrated moving on to a final.
Sundhage said her team would be back.

“The fact that the play style worked all the way to the semifinal is a great accomplishment,” she said. “We have been working on certain things in attack and created a lot of chances. I’m very proud of this team. We have been scoring a lot of goals but unfortunately we couldn’t put it together tonight. In the future there is more to come.”
That future is sure to include Schelin.

by Chipp Reid