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Sweden punishes Australia for recurring mistakes, advances to semifinals

Australia has been awful defensively throughout the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and it finally caught up to the Matildas in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Sweden on Sunday. With the win, Sweden advances to play Japan in the second semifinal on Wednesday.

Ellyse Perry was exposed twice on the right flank as Sweden went ahead 2-0 in the opening 16 minutes, but she did make-up for it in the 40th minute when she scored one of the classiest goals of the tournament, curling the ball inch-perfectly into the upper corner of the goal after Collette McCallum played a short corner kick to her.

But Sweden iced the game in the 52nd minute, although Australian defender Kim Carroll may as well have been given the assist. Carroll attempted to play a back pass to her goalkeeper, Melissa Barbieri, from 40 yards out but slotted what ended up being a perfect through ball to Swedish forward Lotta Schelin.

The mistake was absolutely baffling, more so for how similar it was to previous Australian defensive mistakes in this tournament rather than for how terrible it was.

Regardless of how young the squad is, Australia’s defensive errors are inexcusable. Once or twice in a tournament is understandable, but almost every goal conceded by the Matildas in this tournament was a direct result of errors in the back rather than great play from the opponent.

Servet Uzunlar made mistakes that twice cost Australia in a 3-2 win over Equatorial Guinea a week ago and hurt the Matildas against Norway on Wednesday. This time around, it was Carroll who clearly did not learn from her teammate’s mistakes in previous matches.

Australia is a young enough squad to be able to call this a valuable learning experience as the Matildas build toward the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

Unfortunately for the Matildas, they were never really convincingly competitive in this match against a Sweden team that dominated the midfield battle and finally finished its chances.

Sweden will be happy that Schelin, who was expected to lead the team offensively, finally got on the board (even if it was a gift goal). Sweden finds itself in the semifinals for the first time since 2003, when it lost to Germany in the final.

Now Sweden takes on an equally impressive Japan team for the right to advance to the final. At its best Sweden has looked strong, but Japan put it in a truly perfect 120 minute performance on Saturday to upset host and two-time holder Germany. Much like the entire tournament has been already, the match-up on Wednesday should be memorable.

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