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How Swede it is

Sweden's forward Sofia Jakobsson (R) attends a training session in Auckland on August 12, 2023, ahead of Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup semi-final football match against Spain. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AFP)—It doesn’t attract the same level of attention as many of its rivals, but Sweden might be starting to quietly believe this is its year after reaching yet another semifinal at the Women’s World Cup.

The pre-tournament talk was about the United States and a third straight title, England adding the World Cup to their European crown and Australia going for glory on home soil.

But Sweden is ranked third in the world for a reason and is now gearing up for a third World Cup semifinal in four editions after beating Japan 2-1 on Friday.

After losing to the Netherlands in the last four in 2019, and to Japan at the same stage in 2011, Sweden faces Spain on Tuesday hoping to secure a first final appearance since 2003, when it was edged out by Germany.

It is not just the World Cup though. Peter Gerhardsson’s team were also beaten semifinalists at last year’s Euro.

In fact, it has reached the semifinals at least eight times in its last 10 appearances at the European Championship, without winning the title. It has also been silver medalist at the last two Olympics.

Sweden might have fallen short all too often when it comes to the crunch, but all that past experience could serve them well against a Spain team appearing at this stage of the World Cup for the first time.

“We have been in this situation before, playing semifinals. It’s huge. We just have a really good team,” said veteran forward Sofia Jakobsson.

The 33-year-old is one of the most seasoned campaigners in Gerhardsson’s squad, having been part of the team at the 2011 World Cup.

She has seen many players come and go, and only four of the team that started against Japan also lined up in the 2019 semi-final.

Jakobsson puts Sweden’s consistency down to the players getting on with each other, something which may appear simplistic but is helpful at a major tournament when teams spend weeks together in hotels far from home.

“We push each other in training, we have really good fun outside the field and I just think we really have a good chemistry in the group,” she said.

“Obviously it helps when you win games as well.”

Sweden was one of just three teams to win all three group games, along with Japan and England.

They overcame the USA on penalties before ending Japan’s run, winning 2-1 at Eden Park thanks to defender Amanda Ilestedt’s fourth goal at the tournament and Filippa Angeldal’s penalty.

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