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Tokyo Olympics 2021 women's football: Sweden into semi-finals with 'controlled' performance over Japan

Sweden v Japan: Women's Football Quarterfinal - Olympics: Day 7
Sweden v Japan: Women's Football Quarterfinal - Olympics: Day 7
Alex Bishop
ANALYST

Sweden have earned a place in the Tokyo 2021 women's football tournament semi-finals with a convincing 3-1 win over hosts Japan. They now face Australia on Monday 2nd August at Yokohama Stadium.

Wasting no time, Sweden were first to pounce with a high ball into Japan's penalty area for Sofia Jakobsson to latch on to. The Bayern Munich forward subsequently fluffed her shot, but Sweden succeeded in unsettling the Japanese defense early on.

The deadlock was broken after just six minutes of playing time. Rolfo Fridolina snuck around the backline to deliver an inch-perfect cross for Magdalena Eriksson to head past the keeper and make it 1-0 to Sweden.

The tournament favorites continued to dictate the run of play, maintaining a high press to stop Japan from gaining any sort of foothold in the game. The host nation were unable to find a past this and opted to bring their two center midfielders, Emi Nakajima and Narumi Miura, deeper to provide more options when playing through the press.

Taking the game by the scruff of the neck, Japan clawed their way back into the game at the 25-minute mark. AC Milan's Yui Hasegawa swung in a cross from the right flank that met the head of center forward Mina Tanaka who tucked home to bring the score level.

From here Japan went on to impose themselves on their opponents for the remainder of the half. They were able to apply their high-tempo passing game more effectively and had Sweden pinned back in their own half for large periods.

Controversy struck in the 29th minute when Tanaka was brought down in the box by Amanda Ilestedt. The referee blew the whistle and pointed to the spot. Arsenal forward Mana Iwabuchi stepped up to take the penalty before the decision was eventually reversed upon a VAR check.

Further chances would come Japan's way for the remainder of the first half. At 37 minutes Iwabuchi played a cunning one-two with Tanaka to break through on goal. However, she was unable to shake off her marker, Eriksson, and was muscled off the ball without pulling the trigger.

Sweden v Japan: Women's Football Quarterfinal - Olympics: Day 7
Sweden v Japan: Women's Football Quarterfinal - Olympics: Day 7

The first half would come to a close with the run of play favoring the host nation. The Swedish backline did just enough to keep the scoreline level, but there was certainly an air of concern amongst the 2016 silver medalists.

The 2nd half began with viable chances created at both ends but it was the Swedes who reclaimed the lead in the 52 minute. Rolfo played cut Nadeshiko's backline apart with an incisive through ball for Stina Blackstenius to fire home to make it 2-1 for Sweden.

At this point the Swedes fell back and slowed the pace of their approach in an attempt to take the sting out of the game. Now that they had the lead, they seemed content in sitting back and absorbing what Japan had to offer.

Japan moved the ball well, playing one-touch passes as they progressed through the lines but were ultimately unable to break through and add that final touch. This is an all too familiar story for the side that boasts some of the best technical ability in the tournament but critically lacks goal scoring ideas.

Sweden's lead was cemented when they were awarded a penalty via VAR for Narumi Miura's handball in the area. Kosovare Asllani stepped up and calmly placed her spot kick into the keeper's left corner. 3-1 Sweden.

Miura came off shortly after and was replaced by NTV Beleza Tokyo Verdy forward Jun Endo. Japan switched to a 4-3-3 formation from here on. Although they had more strike power at their disposal up front, this did not solve the issue of being unable to create clear cut chances.

With the game seemingly out of sight for the hosts, Sweden had no qualms about implementing their usual defensive, low-block set-up that they often use when in a winning position. The changes they made throughout the second half only allowed them to reinforce this game plan.

Tokyo Olympics 2021: Sweden to face Australia in the women's football semi-final

The final whistle came with Sweden walking out deserved winners. Through most of the game it was clear that they outmatched Japan tactically, technically and physically. They march on to the semi-finals where they face Australia, who clinched a 4-3 win over Team GB in extra time.

Nadeshiko exit the tournament with just one win and three goals. Their free-flowing possession-based passing game is sure to have provided entertainment value for many and there is obvious talent within the current roster.

However, the lack of goal scoring ideas and inability to compete with the physicality of many nations present at Tokyo 2020 has ultimately cost them a place on the podium this time.


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Edited by Rohit Mishra
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