It was heartbreak for Brazilians at Maracana after Cristiane and Andressinha saw their penalties saved by Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. It was shoot-out time after a goalless semifinal at the end of 120 minutes of regulation and extra time. Brazil had looked a better side but they couldn’t unlock the Swedish defense despite their best efforts. In the penalty shoot-out, Brazil missed twice and Sweden once but that was enough for the Europeans to eke out a 4-3 shoot-out victory that took them to the women’s football final. In the gold medal match on Friday, Sweden will meet Germany in the all-European final in Rio de Janeiro’s famed Maracana stadium. Brazil will go to Sao Paulo for the bronze medal game with Canada, who lost 0-2 to Germany in the other semifinal at Belo Horizonte.
Sweden’s Lisa Dahlkvist garnered the limelight twice in one week. She was the star in her nation’s semifinal victory over USA on Friday at Brasilia, where she converted the last spot-kick in penalty shoot-out and repeated her encore against Brazil on Tuesday. The shoot-out victory over Brazil took Sweden in the final of women’s football to an utter disappointment of the hosts. The match began among fever-pitch expectations of host country’s fans, who had gathered at Maracana to see Brazil’s passage into the final. Their hero Marta was in full flow. She played with tight control, showing her dribbling skills every time she moved into the Swedish territory. Brazil had beaten Sweden 5-1 in the league phase 10 days ago and everyone expected another Brazilian victory on Tuesday. This time, however, Sweden had fortified their defense and thwarted several ambitious moves by Brazilian women. The Europeans used either Stina Blackstenius or Lotta Schelin, in the forward line and packed their midfield to stop Brazil. Early in the game, Sweden took the first shot at the goal, when captain Lotta Schelin was fed a long ball by Nilla Fischer. Though Schelin entered Brazil’s penalty area, she couldn’t keep her shot under the bar. Soon after that, Brazil’s Debinha also had two goal-scoring chances but on one occasion, her shot sailed over the crossbar and second time, she played straight into the hands of goalkeeper Lindahl. A few minutes before halftime, Brazil almost benefitted from an own goal by Sweden, when Marta’s corner was headed into Swedish goal by Lisa Dahlkvist but fortunately for Sweden, it went wide off the post. Brazil’s Beatriz produced another dangerous header soon afterwards but it was saved by Lindahl.
Play by both teams in the second half was lackluster and they couldn’t create any clear-cut chances. Though Brazil dominated the possession for most part after an hour mark, they couldn’t translate that into goals. After 90 minutes and the added injury time, extra-time period ensued. While Brazilian women couldn’t enter Sweden’s penalty area, they saw their own goal threatened on two occasions. Both times, it was skipper Schelin. In the first half of extra-time, her header went astray while in the next 15-minute period, Schelin fired wide off the post. With neither side achieving the breakthrough, the match went to the penalty shoot-out.
Brazil got the first chance and Marta duly converted after her miss against Australia. Sweden also converted their first penalty but then came the first miss from Brazil. Cristiane’s shot was saved by Lindahl but since Sweden also missed their second penalty, the teams were level. After the next two penalties were converted by Brazil and Sweden, Brazil’s luck didn’t hold, when Andressinha couldn’t beat Lindahl. Now it was time for Dahlkvist’s heroics. The Swede didn’t blink as she shot through for the 4-3 shoot-out victory for Sweden. In the gold medal match at Maracana on August 19, Sweden will play against Germany, who defeated Canada 2-0 in the other semifinal at Belo Horizonte later in the day.
Germany played much better football on Tuesday than the highly promising Canadians in the other semifinal. The Germans had lost to Canada 1-2 at Group stage and they were determined to avenge that loss. Germany shot into the lead through the 21st minute penalty by tournament top-scorer Melanie Behringer. It was a needless foul by Canada’s Kadeisha Buchanan, who brought down Alexandra Popp in the box with a rash challenge. After the first goal, Germany kept dominating the play and though no more goals could accrue in the first half, Germany’s lead became 2-0 from a 59th minute low shot by Sara Daebritz. It was an apt culmination of a German counter-attack and Daebritz was too close to miss the target. Canada did their best but the tight German defense didn’t yield any goal. In the 77th minute, Canada almost pulled one back but German goalkeeper Almuth Schult brilliantly saved the close-range shot from Diane Matheson. In the remaining time, Germany held on to their 2-0 lead and entered the final.
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