Sweden made it through to the semi-finals of Euro 2022, where they will face hosts England, after a dramatic late winner from Linda Sembrant in added time.
Sweden have great pedigree in this tournament, making the final four, eight times in the last 12 editions, while Belgium left in the group stage of their debut in 2017 – to say Sweden went in as favourites would be a gross understatement.
Sweden failed to deliver on that pedigree in the first half, which ended goalless, though that was after VAR ruled Stina Blackstenius’s 25th minute effort to be offside.
Outside of this, Sweden dominated possession but lacked quality in the final third. While Belgium’s defending often looked on the chaotic side, Nicky Evrard made a few crucial saves.
The stalemate continued into the second half, with Kosovare Asllani and Filippa Angeldahl piling pressure on the Belgian side, but the deadlock could not be broken and Sweden’s big stars, Blackstenius and Fridolina Rolfo seemed to be missing in action.
Spectators could be forgiven for thinking the possession ratio was weighted far more heavily in Sweden’s favour, given the sheer number of attempts, but it was relatively even.
At the 33rd time of asking, Sweden found the net thanks to Sembrant, in the 92nd minute, to put them through to the semi-finals.
TALKING POINT – CAN SWEDEN STOP ENGLAND?
On the strength of that performance, absolutely not. Sweden looked panicked at times against a far inferior team, who were barely able to find the final third. Despite vast experience and success in the tournament, they lacked quality. England will feel immensely reassured after this match that there is a clear path for them to the tournament final.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – NICKY EVRARD
Hands down the greatest contribution of the match was by the Belgium keeper who faced a barrage by Angeldahl and Asllani in particular. That she only conceded once in the final minute if the game is almost miraculous – she can leave the tournament with her head held high.
SWEDEN: Lindahl 5, Ilestedt 5, Sembrant 6, Eriksson 6, Nilden 6, Angeldahl 7, Asllani 7, Bjorn 6, Rytting Kaneryd 6, Blackstenius 5, Rolfo 5. Subs: Bennison 5.
BELGIUM: Evrard 9, Deloose 5, Kees 5, De Neve 5, Philtjens 5, Biesmans 5, Vanhaevermaet 5, Minnaert 5, Cayman 5, De Caigny 5, Wullaert 5. Subs: Missipo 5.
14’EVRARD EARNS HER KEEP
A couple of scrappy attempts by Sweden there, after Evrard fails to clear the initial shot. It’s not pretty, but she eventually jumps on the ball and puts the threat to bed.
18’ GREAT PLAY FROM ASLLANI
She flicks the ball past the Belgian defence and runs onto it – a great play. More like this, please.
25’GOAL! BLACKSTENIUS PUTS SWEDEN AHEAD!
A great counter attack by Sweden sees Blackstenius races in front of the back line and taps the ball past the keeper.
26’ WAIT FOR IT… VAR GETS INVOLVED
VAR checks to see if Blackstenius was in fact offside, and indeed she was – the goal is disallowed.
90’+2 GOAL! SEMBRANDT SCORES!
At the thirty third time of asking, Sweden score and save us the indignity of an extra 30 minutes.