A devastating blow for Magdalena Eriksson, Jonna Andersson and Hedvig Lindahl’s Sweden who fail to reach the final as they suffered a narrow defeat to European champions the Netherlands.
Despite a very even match overall, former Chelsea player Jackie Groenen found the back of the net in extra-time to send Holland into their first World Cup final.
Tonight marked Sweden’s 14th semi-final in a major tournament and fourth ever World Cup semi-final, with their last one being in 2011 when they lost 3-1 to Japan.
The Scandinavians sealed a semi-final spot when they produced an impressive performance to beat Germany 2-1 after a 24-year run without a victory against the two-time champions.
The Swedes have come up against the Dutch 21 times, with Sweden winning on 10 occasions to the Netherlands’ six and the other five resulted in a draw. The last time they locked horns was in Euro 2017 and the Dutch, who were the host nation and eventual winners of the tournament, came away with a 2-0 win in the quarter-final.
Both sides made one change to their starting XI; Sweden’s only change was that Lina Hurtig replaced the suspended Fridolina Rolfo, which meant that Magdalena Eriksson remained at left-back and Hedvig Lindahl, who recently departed from us, was in goal. The Scandinavian veteran played her 19th World Cup match tonight, making her top in the most appearances ever for a Swedish player. Jonna Andersson began on the bench but swapped in for Eriksson in extra-time.
The Netherlands only change saw Lyon’s Shanice step out for Bayern Munich’s Lineth Beerensteyn. There were familiar faces within the Oranjeleeuwinnen for our Sweden Blues as four Arsenal players were present on the pitch, including Vivianne Miedema, the leading goal scorer of the WSL 2018/19 season.
Sweden began the game the better side and were more dangerous going forward on the attack for much of the first half. They produced a couple of clear-cut chances with ex-Chelsea player Sofia Jakobsson firing on target and Linkopings’ Stina Blackstenius going close.
The Dutch appeared to find their rhythm on the stroke of half-time and Miedema picked the ball up from the edge of the box and wriggled past Linda Sembrant and pulled the lever, but Nilla Fischer blocked the striker's effort.
Similarly to last night’s semi-final between England and the United States, both teams had even ball possession at the break.
Sweden very nearly broke the deadlock with just over half hour left when the Netherlands failed to clear their lines. The ball fell kindly to Fischer on the edge of the box, who drilled a low effort on goal, which looked as though it was going into the bottom corner before Arsenal’s Sari Van Veenendaal made a finger-tip save to push it onto the post.
The game began to open up; minutes later the Dutch were inches from getting the first goal of the encounter when their first corner of the night landed to Miedema. The no.9, who was unmarked in the 18-yard box, struck on goal but Lindahl made a fantastic save to push the shot onto the crossbar.
Van De Sanden came on as a substitute in the closing stages of the match, and she made an immediate impact with her pace down the right channel. In stoppage time, she almost saved her side from going into extra-time when she powered forward from the right and fired her shot towards the far corner but the Swedish no.1 made yet another great save when she pushed it out of play.
As the 90 minutes could not decide who was to face the USA in the final, extra-time beckoned. However, the finalist was confirmed in the first period of extra-time when Sweden’s solid defence were finally cracked. Jackie Groenen, who used to play her football at Chelsea with Lindahl in 2015, ploughed through midfield with pace and made no mistake in placing her well-struck effort into the bottom corner out of the goalkeeper's reach.
Tonight’s slender loss for the Swedes means that they will travel to Nice to face England on Saturday in the third-place match. Therefore Eriksson, Andersson and Lindahl may battle it out for bronze against fellow Chelsea team-mates Fran Kirby, Carly Telford and Karen Carney.