The Buzz: Sweden are the giants of this tournament, having sent USA and Japan through the knockout stages to the semifinals for the third time in the last four World Cups. And third-placed Sweden — the highest-ranked team remaining — made it through with crushing defense and an opportunistic offense.
Of the four remaining sides, only England have conceded fewer goals than Sweden, who have conceded two, and eight of their 11 goals have come from set pieces, most of them in the tournament. Defender Amanda Ilestedt is second in the Golden Boot race with four goals, all from set pieces. Sweden is the only semi-finalist to have ever played in a World Cup final, losing to Germany in 2003.
Spain, meanwhile, have overcome internal turmoil and a 4-0 group stage defeat by Japan to reach the semi-finals for the first time. Last autumn, 15 internationals threatened to leave the team unless coach Jorge Vilda was fired. Vilda stayed and most of the players returned, but it wasn’t a happy group.
La Roja left his New Zealand base camp in Palmerston North early as players claimed they were bored and Spain are the only teams of the last four not to win their group.
Spain have scored the most in the last four with 15 goals, but so have six. Three players – Aitana Bonmatí, Jennifer Hermoso and Alba Redondo – share the team’s lead with three goals each, while Bonmatí and Hermoso each have two assists.