The penultimate stage of a major tournament is familiar territory for Sweden and although they have failed to clear that hurdle several times recently, that strong pedigree could serve them well against Spain in their Women’s World Cup semi-final.
The two teams will vie for a spot in the final at Auckland’s Eden Park on Tuesday, setting up a showdown in Sydney with either co-hosts Australia or European champions England for the chance to be crowned a first-time World Cup winner.
“It’s going to be a high-pressure Spain and high-pressure Sweden,” Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson said. “For me, it’s lovely football.”
Sweden are the highest-ranked nation remaining – at world number three – and are appearing at their fifth World Cup semi-final. They have played in all nine editions but only reached the final once, when they lost to Germany in 2003.
The Scandinavians have not won a major trophy since the inaugural 1984 Euros, when only four teams took part. They also reached the semi-finals of last year’s Euros and the 2019 World Cup, and have been runners-up at the last two Olympics.
Sweden won all three group games this tournament and dispatched two World Cup winners – the United States and Japan – in the knockouts. They will be confident of continuing that momentum against Spain, who have never reached the last four of the showpiece tournament.
“We have the benefit of experience,” captain Kosovare Asllani said. “We have gone far in the last few tournaments but I am particularly pleased with the way we have done it this time.
“We have won our matches in different ways and it shows the strength of this team.”
Spain’s only previous semi-final appearance at a major tournament was at the 1997 Euros. They made their World Cup debut in 2015 and their best result prior to this tournament was a last 16 exit four years ago.
After seeing off 2019 runners-up Netherlands, they are now one win away from a first final, less than a year after 15 players staged a revolt against long-serving coach Jorge Vilda and threatened to quit if he was not fired.
Spain are winless in 11 meetings against Sweden – none of which were at a World Cup – and have lost seven of those games. The teams drew 1-1 in a friendly last October in Cordoba.
“If you don’t feel any nerves before a game like this then something is not right,” veteran forward Jenni Hermoso said. “It gives you goosebumps thinking about how close we are to the final … Spain will come out more determined than ever.
“We have worked so hard to get here … I want the whole team to enjoy it and for the whole of Spain to be behind us.”