Day 13, Match 30
Japan vs. Sweden, Semifinal
Date and Location
July 13, Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt, Germany
Live on CBC TV and CBCSports.ca (2:30 p.m. ET). Consult the full broadcast schedule.
What's at stake
A spot in the final against the winner of Wednesday's other semifinal between France and the United States. This is the farthest Japan has progressed in six appearances at the World Cup, and a victory would result in an Asian country reaching the final for the second time in tournament history. Sweden is one of the traditional powers of the women's game having finished third in 1991 and losing in the final of the 2003 competition.
Setting the stage
The Swedes are two wins away from fulfilling their destiny.
Sweden is one of the true giants of the women's game, but a World Cup crown has eluded them thus far. After a slow start to this tournament, the Scandinavians have emerged as legitimate title contenders, defeating the top-ranked United States to win Group C and then dispatching Australia with relative ease to book their spot in the semifinals.
With a sturdy defence, a balanced attack and plenty of experience, Sweden seems poised to finally break through. Japan, however, will pose a tough test.
The Japanese pulled off a major upset when it defeated host nation Germany in the quarter-finals. The Asian powerhouse is also playing some inspired soccer in this competition, dazzling opponents with their quickness, technical skill and a lethal counter-attack.
The Japanese players have also shown a great deal of class and grace, touting a banner that reads "To our friends around the world — Thank you for your support" in their solemn post-game celebrations, a reference to the global outpouring of aid in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that rocked the country.
Trying to bring some joy to a country that is still trying to rebuild, the Japanese team have won plaudits in Germany for playing with poise in difficult times.
Player to watch for Japan
Homare Sawa — The veteran Japanese leads her team in scoring with three goals, and she set up the deciding goal by Karina Maruyama in Japan's 1-0 extra-time win over Germany in the semifinals.
Player to watch for Sweden
Lisa Dahlkvist — The Swedish midfielder leads her team in scoring with three goals at this tournament, including the decisive goal in a 3-1 win over Australia in the quarter-finals.
The Japanese perspective
"Sweden have a chance to win against us and vice-versa. When we last had a friendly match we gained confidence and we have also improved since then. (Against Germany) we gained further valuable experiences, but only the god of football knows who will win," coach Norio Sasaki told FIFA.com.
The Swedish perspective
"Japan have an extra day off because they played a day earlier but I think, physically, we will be stronger. I think that's something that we need to take advantage of and hopefully Japan won't be as fresh as we're going to be," midfielder Caroline Seger told FIFA.com.
World Cup head-to-head
Japan and Sweden have met seven times at senior level in international play, with the Swedes winning four times and losing just once. Sweden has won both World Cup encounters between two nations, in the group stage of the 1991 and 1995 tournaments.
An earlier version of this story stated that should Japan win over Sweden, they would be the first Asian nation to advance to a FIFA Women's World Cup final. In fact, Japan would be the second. China was the first to do it in 1999, losing to the United States in the championship match.Oct 11, 2013 3:18 AM ET