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Sweden, Spain set for clash of styles in World Cup semi-final

First-time semi-finalists Spain face a more seasoned Sweden at the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday, with a final against England or co-hosts Australia the prize.

Spain and Sweden kick off at 0800 GMT at Eden Park in Auckland in the first semi-final, before European champions England go into battle with Australia in Sydney on Wednesday.

The meeting in Auckland is a clash of styles—Spain’s superior technique and mesmerising passing versus Sweden’s more physical approach and use of dead-ball situations.

Sweden are into their third semi-final in the last four World Cups and even though they have never gone on to win the competition, Peter Gerhardsson’s side believe that experience gives them the edge.

The Swedes also reached the last four of the European Championship last summer, before being soundly beaten 4-0 by hosts and eventual winners England.

In contrast, this will be Spain’s debut in a World Cup semi-final.

“We have the benefit of experience,” Sweden captain Kosovare Asllani said on the eve of the game at Eden Park.

“We have gone far in the last few tournaments but I am particularly pleased with the way we have done it this time.

“We have won our matches in different ways and it shows the strength of this team.”

Sweden, who dumped out holders the United States in the last 16 on penalties, were one of only three teams to progress from the group stage with a perfect three wins out of three.

England and Japan — beaten by Sweden 2-1 in the quarter-finals — were the others.

Sweden are particularly deadly from set-pieces and in Amanda Ilestedt they have an unlikely contender for the tournament’s golden boot.

The towering Arsenal defender has four goals so far, three with her head.

Gerhardsson has lauded the team spirit within his squad, saying they have the kind of togetherness usually more associated with club teams.

Spain ‘goosebumps’

Whether Spain are as united has been a point of debate ever since 15 players declared nearly a year ago that they did not wish to represent their country under coach Jorge Vilda.

“We have a (federation) president who reacted bravely, who backed me and my staff,” he said on Monday.

“Now there is unity in the squad, everyone is getting on, they are ambitious and trying to enjoy every day.”

Three of the 15 rebels returned to the World Cup squad under Vilda and one of them, Barcelona playmaker Aitana Bonmati, has been one of the best players at the competition.

With three goals at the tournament, striker Jennifer Hermoso has also been a pivotal figure.

The 33-year-old admitted on the eve of the game to “goosebumps” at the thought of reaching Sunday’s final in Sydney.

“If you don’t feel any nerves before a game like this then something is not right,” said Hermoso, who won her 100th cap earlier in the tournament.

“It gives you goosebumps thinking about how close we are to the final, but first of all we have the game tomorrow and Spain will come out more determined than ever.”

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