Free scoring Swedes set up Germany tussle

It was the semi-final that we were all hoping for and yesterday’s results mean that on Wednesday hosts Sweden will take on five times holders Germany – turning that hope into what promises to be an intriguing reality.

The Swedes having appeared too struggled slightly with the intense expectation placed on them, could only muster a draw against Denmark in their opener – although in truth they should have won were it not for a catalogue of missed chances. Any worries that the occasion would prove too much were soon quashed with a 5-0 thumping of Finland, since that result they simply not looked back – seeing off Italy 3-1 in their final group stage and then cruising past Iceland in the semis.

The Iceland game was virtually done and dusted by the 19th minute as the attacking Swedes powered into a 3-0 lead, they only added one further strike but that brutal opening spell highlights that they have everything it takes to go all the way. Pia Sundhage appears to be working the same magic that saw her guide the USA to the Olympics last summer, whilst Lotta Schelin after a slow start is now living up to her billing as the superstar of the tournament – with her five goals the best return of any player.

For Germany, their route to the last four has not been nearly as impressive – with a defeat to Norway in the group stage representing their first at a European Championships for 20 years. Further to that they were also held in their opening fixture by The Netherlands, the side who ended up bottom of the group. In their quarter final win there were at least signs of things starting to click, although they were still someway from their best during that 1-0 over Italy. Defensively they have been as water tight as ever conceding just one goal in their four contests, however a failure to score in two of those games and an inability to get the crucial second against Italy will be where the concern lies.

The loss of an entire raft of first team regulars through injury has seemingly be tough to handle even for the unflappable and indestructible Germans. That said they still possess a squad packed full of talent, whilst the aura and mental edge they hold over the rest of Europe means beating them to the title still looks a significant mountain for anyone left in the tournament. It is hard to not to see them continuing to improve as we enter the closing stages of the campaign given their quality, as well as this their past experiences of success means it would be very foolish to write them off.

Sweden though seemingly riding on a wave of momentum, aided in no small part by the vociferous local support will be as confident as anyone of finally dethroning the holders. The impact of the crowd should not be ignored for no other host nation of a major women’s international football tournament has taken it on board like the Swedes, with their team channelling this support to their advantage it could prove the equaliser to the apparent German invincibility. Sundhage has led by example in using the crowd as an advantage and that has seemingly rubbed off on her supremely talented squad – who were amongst the fancied sides before but have thus far reached unexpected levels.

Whatever does happen on Wednesday night it promises to be a wonderful occasion in Gothenburg – with the big questions being whether the intense home support can inspire Sundhage’s ladies to bring about the end of an era or whether the toughness and tournament hardness of Germany will come through one of its toughest tests yet. If the Swedes have shown any frailties to date it has been defensively, whilst we have already mentioned the Germans lack of goals – meaning the outcome of this one could well sit in whether Sweden’s impressive attacking talent can breach the rock solid German backline.