Semifinal Showdown: One Step Close To Winning It All
With Germany making a group stage exit, the USA and Norway being knocked out in the Round of 16, and Japan meeting their end in the quarterfinals, a new winner will be crowned at the end of the World Cup. Sweden, Spain, Australia, and England remain standing with hopes to make it to the Final.
Sweden vs. Spain
Spain is coming into this match with something to prove. This is the farthest the Spaniards have ever made it in the World Cup which can either add pressure or encourage a team. The big storyline around Spain going into, and even during the tournament, has been the issues between the team and its federation. If they win this match and make it to the final, it will be in spite of their Head Coach Jorge Vilda, not in celebration.
This Spain team is very young in comparison to the teams seen before. Their inexperience helped them secure a win over the Netherlands because they were able to navigate the ball in a way that was unexpected. However, the goal that got them on the board came from a penalty in the 81st minute. Although that should have secured a win, the Netherlands had other plans and scored their own to even the match which sent the game into extra time.
Nineteen-year-old Salma Celeste Paralluelo Ayingono ultimately won the match for Spain with a goal in the 111th minute of play. Although she had played in all five matches for Spain, a goal had yet to be scored by her which is where that unknown of a player came in handy for the team.
After Sweden narrowly beat the United States in a penalty shootout, people largely expected Japan to take them down. However, they proved everyone wrong.
Amanda Ilestedt netted a goal in the first half to put Sweden on the board which only bolstered their confidence as they headed into the second 45. Filippa Angeldal added a second for the Swedes and while Japan was able to get one back it was not enough to win the match.
In comparison to Spain, Sweden has a team stacked with experience. On their 23-player roster, only seven are World Cup first-timers. Sweden is a team who knows how they play and exude confidence as they take the field. The most important part of their game is scoring early so that they can control the pace of the match. When they get on the board early it is almost always trouble for their opponent.
Their goalkeeper Zećria Mušović will also be key to keeping Sweden in the match. She has made incredible saves each match thus far, and against a Spain side that can take long and fast shots, her skills will be crucial.
This match will be a close call and can truly go either way but it will be a fight to the end as Sweden tries to escape ending in third yet again and Spain aims to make it farther than anyone could have predicted for them.
Australia vs England
The Matildas have been putting on a show and changed the entire landscape of soccer in Australia. With Sam Kerr back to playing minutes, Mackenzie Arnold a brick wall in goal, and the team being cheered on by the entire continent they have all the means to win.
Although their win against France came down to a penalty shootout, they nailed the goals to take the cake. The shootout was the longest in World Cup history with 20 penalties being taken, but it all came down to Cortnee Vine who nailed her penalty with ease. The win had now pushed Australia to the Semi Final for the first time.
Beyond the big names of Sam Kerr, Ellie Carpenter, and Steph Catley, Australia has many hidden gems in players like Mary Fowler, Katrina Gorry, and Kyra Cooney-Cross who have made their cases during this World Cup. They have the ability to be one of the deadliest teams with the caliber of their strikers but they often struggle to hit the back of the net which could be their biggest weakness going against a team like England.
Australia clearly has the entire nation backing them so as long as they stay alert in transition and find a way to slip just one goal behind Mary Earps, a trip to the final is in their future.
England came into this tournament as the reigning Euros 2022 champions where Chole Kelly scored the game-winning goal. That seems to be her style as the same thing happened earlier in this tournament where she took the fastest penalty on record at 110km/h, clearly a rocket. Although they have made it this far, some of the games have been just scraping by.
In their quarterfinal, Colombia got on the scoresheet first but being under pressure lit a fire under the Lionesses who got one back just six minutes later to even the score just before the half. Alessia Russo secured the win with a goal in the 63rd minute but it was nowhere near smooth sailing from there. Colombia had many close attempts in the box so England will need to lock down their defense and be careful to not let silly balls slip through the cracks.
While England knows and believes in their tactics, a win is going to be harder than they expect, especially when the entire stadium in Sydney will be cheering against them