Bring on the semifinals! Women’s World Cup already guaranteed to have a new champion

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Aug. 14, 2023

I’m back in Auckland, my home away from home, after the United States crashed out of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Melbourne. I covered Sweden’s 2-1 victory over Japan to earn a spot in the semifinals.

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Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo credit: Annie M. Peterson)

I really thought Japan was going to go through. They were a collective scoring machine in the tournament, finishing with 15 goals — most of any team. Hinata Miyazawa still leads the Golden Boot race with five goals. That matched Japan great Homare Sawa’s total in 2011 when Japan won it all.

But Sweden was just to tall and too physical for the Nadeshiko. Japan’s elimination meant that the last previous Women’s World Cup winner in the field had been eliminated and we’ll get a new champion this year. GROWTH!

Afterward, Kosovare Asllani said it was because the Swedes were able to adapt, not just against Japan, but across the whole tournament.

“We don’t underestimate any teams, and the way we played throughout the tournament, we’ve won in different kinds of ways. I mean, the first game, we had a last-minute winner, the second game set pieces. Third game, a lot of players got playing time. Penalties against the US and tonight we finally got to play our style, the way we like to play football. And so we’ve been winning in different ways. And that’s a big strength in the team that we have, is that we know we can win in different ways. If the game plan doesn’t work, if the other team does it really well, I mean, we find our ways to win. That’s what we’ve been doing throughout the tournament, so I’m just very proud of the team performance and but we’re not satisfied here. Obviously we want to go all the way.

That could be the key to get the Swedes past Spain. La Roja defeated the Netherlands 2-1 in extra time in the quarterfinals.

In the Australian side of the bracket, we’ll have hosts the Matildas against England. Australia advanced on an incredible penalty shootout against France. I was in the hotel bar doing some work (I had to get quotes off the postgame press conference for our writer in Brisbane), and everyone cheered after every pen that Australia converted.

England sadly eliminated Colombia. This was expected, but man, Colombia’s Linda Caicedo was so captivating. And what an amazing story, just 18 and a cancer survivor.

So here’s where we stand. Sweden against Spain on Tuesday night (Auckland time), followed by England and Australia on Wednesday night (Sydney time). Flying to Sydney myself on Wednesday, and hoping to get to my hotel in time to see the match.

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On final note: Thank you to Meg Linehan for this on-point column in The Athletic, explaining why the bad-faith attacks on the USWNT and whether they sang or had their hands on their hearts during the anthem were just that — bad-faith attacks.

I went back and looked at some of the replays of U.S. teams at the Olympics. Most players from the men’s basketball team stood in silence, hands behind their backs. The women’s basketball linked arms but didn’t sing. The men’s baseball team didn’t sing.

It’s manufactured outrage. We all know what they’re really mad about, anyway.

I’m glad media outlets are waking up to the fact that they don’t need to — and shouldn’t — acknowledge these false narratives.

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There’s just one woman coach in the final four at the World Cup, from my colleague James Robson.

My story on Japan’s exit amid hope for the future.

I also wrote about the escalating paydays the players (may) get as they advance.

France exits with disappointment and optimism.

Excellent story from Rachel Bachman about how both U.S. teams will benefit from the CBA signed last year, even though the women lost in the Round of 16.

ESPN’s Joey Lynch wrote a nice story about Colombia.

Mana Shim scored!

The Athletic’s Michael Cox writes about England’s defense. did a nice story on Melanie Barcenas looking up to the USWNT.

Laken Litman asks if Sam Kerr is fully fit for the semis.

The Athletic had a nice story on Spain.

Caitlin Murray says Sweden in 2023 feels a lot like the USWNT in 2019.

Sam Kerr says she hates pens.

Martin Rogers’ take on Spain.

How one team in the NWSL is coping with the break.

FIVE AT THE IX: Sofia Jakobsson

Here’s what Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson (who plays for the San Diego Wave in the NWSL) said following the victory over Japan.

Question: How big was this win?

Sofia Jakobsson: “It’s huge. I mean, we have a really good team. And yeah, right now I’m so happy about this result. And I want to celebrate that before I’m thinking about Spain and everything. But yeah, super happy to be in this in the semifinals.”

Question: Do you feel like the team is very complete, you’re able to attack but also to absorb

Jakobsson: “I mean, I think we know that we have a really good defense. We have had that for many, many years. And also, really good in the attack. We have fast players and I think in the first half, we were playing really, really good and could create so many chances. Obviously I hope we could have scored more goals when we play that well, but yeah, we won the game to win and that’s the most important.”

Question: Do you think you let up after going up 2-0?

Jakobsson: “I don’t know, it’s hard to tell now directly after the gamem but something happened after we scored the 2-0 goal. I don’t know if they were growing into to the game or we was becoming more tired. I don’t know. But I don’t think about that so much now. We won the game. So that’s the most important.”

Question: After the US game, some of the players talked about having trouble sleeping that night, it was a tough game to kind of decompress from. Do you think it was good to face that adversity?

Jakobsson: “For sure. I mean, the US was really tough. For us, it’s so tough to play against them because we are kind of similar teams, physical, and we kind of battle out each other. Today we play against another opponent. But I think it was really good for us to play against such a good team before we faced Japan.”

Question: You were very patient in looking for the short passes. Was that your plan?

Jakobsson: “Yeah, I mean, we play I think where we get the spaces. I think in the beginning of the spaces was to play and then they were getting more compact, and then it was spaces in behind so I think we could use what they was giving us.”

Question: Japan’s games up until now were pretty comfortable.

Jakobsson: “They hadn’t played like a physical team until they played us, a physical team. I mean, we are bigger than them and could go into harder tackles. I think they hadn’t faced that in the group. So I was thinking that would be something new for them. And same as us. It was new for us to play against a team such as Japan that is such a good team with a ball. So we both probably played against a team that we hadn’t faced in the group.”

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson