Japan eyes another upset against Sweden

Simone Laudehr of Germany is challenged by Japan's Homare Sawa during their Women's World Cup...

Simone Laudehr of Germany is challenged by Japan's Homare Sawa during their Women's World Cup quarter-final soccer match in Wolfsburg July 9, 2011. (REUTERS/Ina Fassbender)

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 6:12 PM ET

FRANKFURT, GERMANY - Japan pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Women's World Cup history in beating Germany, 1-0, in extra time in the quarterfinal round.

And now the Nadeshiko will travel into uncharted territory on Wednesday as they make their first-ever appearance in the semifinals of the World Cup when they face Sweden.

Germany was an overwhelming favorite against the Japanese, and as the host nation, a team many believed would claim its third successive World Cup title.

But after toppling the Germans, things won't get much easier for Japan as Sweden enters Wednesday's match full of confidence.

After completing the group stage with three wins from three games, including a 2-1 victory over the United States, Sweden put together another convincing effort in knocking out Australia, 3-1.

The Swedes are the only team left in the tournament without a loss, and according to forward Lotta Schelin, they have been taking small steps each game.

"We were confident about reaching the semifinals but we've been taking small steps, talking about every game as it comes along," Schelin said.

Sweden started the tournament with 1-0 wins over Colombia and Korea DPR, but didn't fully hit its stride until a 2-1 upset win over the United States.

Sunday's quarterfinal victory over Australia showed just how good Sweden can be, with the Scandinavians clearly outclassing the Matildas with sharp attacking play spearheaded by Schelin.

The 27-year-old has been one of the best players in Germany so far, and along with midfielder Lisa Dahlkvist, who has scored a goal in each of Sweden's last three games, Schelin figures to be the focal point of the Japanese defense.

Japan was able to pull off the upset over Germany by possessing the ball and staying organized in the back, despite the fact that the Japanese rarely threatened the German goal.

But when the opportunity presented itself in extra time, Japan capitalized with inspirational leader Homare Sawa setting up Karina Maruyama's goal.

Japan figures to take a similar approach into the game against Sweden, with the Nadeshiko needing to make the most of any chance they get.

Sweden will enter the match as favorites, but Japan will certainly be comfortable in the underdog role once again.


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