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Preview: Spain W vs Sweden W – prediction, team news, line-ups

Eden Park forms the backdrop for a mouth-watering 2023 Women’s World Cup semi-final tie between Spain and Sweden on Tuesday morning. 

Despite being plagued by off-field issues involving the team’s revolt against manager Jorge Vilda’s training methods and poor player management, Spain made history last Friday. 

La Roja survived scary extra-time moments to beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the quarter-finals and secure a semi-final berth at a major tournament for the first time since reaching the last four of the 1997 European Championships.

A dramatic encounter at Wellington’s Sky Stadium was anything but plain sailing for Spain, especially after Stefanie van der Gragt netted a stoppage-time equaliser to annul Mariona Caldentey’s first-half penalty.

However, Barcelona forward Salma Paralluelo slotted home an extra-time winner to lock down Spain’s place in the Women’s World Cup semi-finals for the first time in the nation’s history.

Unlike Vilda’s team, Sweden are familiar with the territory as they brace themselves for a third semi-final appearance in the last four Women’s World Cup editions.  

Peter Gerhardsson’s ladies claimed a 2-1 win over Japan in the quarter-finals, inspired by the tournament’s second-joint top-scorer Amanda Ilestedt’s first-half opener. 

It’s been a memorable summer for the Arsenal defender. She has scored four goals to make candidacy for the Golden Boot award, helping Blagult get this far unscratched. 

Except for a nervy penalty shoot-out win over back-to-back champions United States, Sweden have won all four remaining matches at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in regulation time. 

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Spain’s scoring prowess has been off the charts at the tournament as they’ve bagged 15 goals along their Women’s World Cup journey.

Vilda’s side won their opening two group-stage fixtures against Costa Rica and Zambia by an aggregate score of 8-0 before slumping to a woeful 4-0 defeat to Japan on matchday three. 

But Spain steadied the ship with an overwhelming 5-1 triumph over Switzerland in the round of 16 before squeezing past the Netherlands to move within two wins of a historic feat. 

Although they’ve gone winless in all 11 previous meetings with Sweden (D4, L), La Roja will hope their unmatched firepower could turn their fortunes around at Eden Park.

Sweden’s 100% win ratio at the 2023 Women’s World Cup shows why they’re FIFA’s #3 ranked side, but they must overcome a psychological barrier to maintain their flawless record. 

Since their only grand final appearance in 2003, they couldn’t progress beyond this stage despite having two opportunities in the last four tournaments. 

Defensive solidity has provided a backbone of Sweden’s supreme run in Australia and New Zealand. They have racked up three clean sheets in five matches, conceding precisely once in the other two.

Gerhardsson’s team will have to showcase their resilience against the tournament’s most prolific attack if they are to break their ‘semi-final jinx’ and make a decisive step towards winning a long-overdue trophy.

Team News

Barcelona defender Laia Codina limped off the pitch in the second half against the Netherlands, casting doubt on her availability for this showdown.

Luckily for Spain boss Vilda, she is the only doubt for Tuesday’s fixture.

As for Sweden, Gerhardson has no reason to alter the starting line-up that held their ground against the United States in the first knockout round and kept Japan quiet in the quarter-finals.

He should continue to rely on Arsenal defender Ilestedt to keep things tight at the back and her club teammate Stina Blackstenius to lead the line. 

Spain potential starting line-up:

(4-3-3): Catalina Coll; Oihane Hernandez, Irene Paredes, Ivana Andres, Ona Batlle; Aitana Bonmati, Teresa Abelleira, Jennifer Hermoso; Salma Paralluelo, Mariona Caldentey, Esther Gonzalez.

Sweden potential starting line-up:

(4-2-3-1): Zecira Musovic; Nathalie Bjorn, Amanda Ilestedt, Magdalena Eriksson, Jonna Andersson; Filippa Angeldahl, Elin Rubensson; Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Kosovare Asllani, Fridolina Rolfo; Stina Blackstenius.

We Say: Spain 0-1 Sweden 

More often than not, defences win tournaments. On that basis, Sweden will relish their chances in this blockbuster clash.

In addition to their phenomenal run at the tournament and rock-solid backline, Blagult can draw further confidence from their stellar all-time record against Spain.

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