Sweden again falls to the third-place game at the Women's World Cup
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Once again, Sweden finds itself in a very familiar spot — playing for third place at the Women's World Cup.
The Swedes were the third-place finishers four years ago in France, and at the first World Cup in 1991.
With a 2-1 loss to Spain in the semifinals on Tuesday in Auckland, Sweden will again play for third against the loser of Wednesday's match between England and host Australia in Sydney.
The loss was disappointing for third-ranked Sweden after knocking off the United States in the round of 16. But the Swedes must now rally for the consolation game on Saturday in Brisbane.
“We've not come this far to just give up now,” Sweden defender Magdalena Eriksson said. “We have another game to play. We're going to do everything we can to win it.”
The closest Sweden has come to winning the World Cup was in 2003, when they fell to Germany 2-1 in the final.
It's been much the same at the Olympics. Sweden won silver medals at the Tokyo Games two years ago, and at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. But the team has never won gold.
“We wanted the final. But here we are,” said a somber Lina Hurtig, who kicked the winning penalty in the shootout against the United States after a scoreless draw — the earliest the two-time defending champion Americans had been eliminated.
Sweden then downed Japan 2-1 in the quarterfinals but Spain — which led the field in scoring with 14 goals going into the match — proved to be a juggernaut. Sweden had allowed only two goals in the tournament and its defense against Spain held until 19-year-old substitute Salma Paralluelo scored in the 81st minute.
From there it was bedlam. Sweden answered with Rebecka Blomqvist's goal in the 88th but a minute later Olga Carmona scored the game-winner for Spain.
“I think it was a really even game,” Eriksson said. “I think they started better than us, but we grew into the game. In the second half it was completely even. It could have gone either way. The way we stepped up after conceding was really good and then it was really annoying to see them score so quickly after that.”
Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic became a breakout star at the World Cup with a tournament-record 11 saves against the United States. Musovic competed for the starting role with Jennifer Falk as the successor to longtime Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
“I know those setbacks will fuel me to become even better,” Musovic said. “We still have a medal to play for. It's hard to think about that medal today because I'm so freaking disappointed. But tomorrow is a new day, a new opportunity, and I will do everything I can to be able to help the team take the bronze medal.”
Saturday's match will be the last for Sweden midfielder Caroline Seger, who has played in five World Cups. She has battled a calf injury throughout the tournament and has played only sparingly.
Seger has appeared in 235 matches for Sweden, most of any player, man or woman. She did not play in the team's knockout round matches.
Should Seger play on Saturday, it would be her 21st appearance in a World Cup for Sweden, besting Lindahl's record.
Seger tearfully said before the tournament that her goal was winning the “medal I don’t have.”
AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup