Sweden improves with each match

July, 10, 2011

AUGSBURG, Germany -- Sweden punched its ticket to the semifinals with a 3-1 win over Australia on Sunday afternoon in front of 24,605 fans. It'll now face Japan Wednesday in Frankfurt.

Sweden started off the scoring in the 10th minute when Lotta Schelin dribbled past Australian defender Ellyse Perry, making her first World Cup start, before laying off to Therese Sjogran for the finish past goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri. Six minutes later, Sweden made it 2-0 thanks to a Lisa Dahlkvist header from Sjogran, who beat Perry again on the right side of the field.

It didn't look to be the Matildas' day, but near halftime, they got their break. Midfielder Collette McCallum played a corner to Perry on the right side outside the top of the penalty area. Perry beat a diving Hedvig Lindahl to the far post with a well-taken strike. Her shot -- a leading contender for goal of the tournament -- gave the Aussies some life heading into halftime.

Australia's hope didn't last long, though. Schelin put Sweden up 3-1 in the 52nd minute when she jumped on a lazy back pass from defender Kim Carroll, beat Barbieri in a one-on-one and scored into an empty net.

Here are three things we learned from the match:

1. Sometimes the sequel can't live up to the original. The Matildas' first-half performance in Sunday's match against Sweden looked almost like a replay of the last time Australia made a quarterfinal appearance. In 2007, Australia fell down 2-0 early to Brazil, but it was able to score a goal late in the second half to make things close. Australia evened things up in the second half only to lose 3-2 on a brilliant strike by Cristiane. So Sunday's performance was a bit of déjà vu, as the Aussies were able to close the gap before Sweden regained control of the match. Australia had its moments in the second half -- it always seems to -- but in the end couldn't find another goal.

2. Australia's poor defending was always going to come back to hurt it. Poor defense was responsible for both goals Australia gave up in its 3-2 win over Equatorial Guinea, and things were no different Sunday against Sweden. Perry, starting her first World Cup game after just one minute on the pitch in the group round, was outclassed by Sweden's creative players for the first two goals. Carroll's terrible pass back to Barbieri showed a lack of awareness for where Sweden's most dangerous player was on the field. Schelin not only intercepted the pass but did so with no one trying to catch up to her as she raced at Barbieri.

3. Sweden is improving as the tournament goes along. The Swedes were not at their best in their first two wins over North Korea and Colombia, squeaking by both with 1-0 victories. In their final group-stage match, they challenged the U.S. defense but still scored their goals from only a penalty kick and an own goal off a free kick. Against Australia, by contrast, Sweden's pressure produced goals from the run of play. Its defense looked suspect at times, but its offense seems to have gotten into gear.


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