LEIGH, England (AP) — Sweden broke down Belgium’s dogged resistance with a goal in the second minute of stoppage time to win 1-0 on Friday and set up a semifinal against host nation England in the Women’s European Championship.
Linda Sembrant smashed home a loose ball from inside the six-yard box following a corner after Belgium goalkeeper Nicky Evrard produced one of many scrambling saves on a rainy night at Leigh Sports Village.
Sembrant, a 35-year-old defender, was playing only because of a slew of COVID-related absences in the Sweden squad.
The dramatic winner came from Sweden’s 33rd shot of a one-sided quarterfinal between Europe’s top-ranked team — at No. 2 in the world, behind the United States — and a Belgium side playing in its first knockout match at a European Championship.
Belgium defended stoutly, repeatedly getting bodies in the way of Sweden’s shots. When the ball did reach Evrard, she stood firm and made seven saves — two coming off close-range efforts by Sweden striker Stina Blackstenius.
Evrard was heavily involved in the goal, too. She batted away an inswinging corner, raced across her line to keep out a shot by Nathalie Bjorn, only for the ball to rebound out to Sembrant. She could hardly miss.
“We weren’t going to give this up,” Sweden defender Magdalena Eriksson said. “We were going to keep pushing to the 94th minute.
“I felt tears coming (after the goal) because I was so happy for us as a team. It was a frustrating evening. I am so proud of the girls for how hard we fought. It’s not been an easy week for us.”
Sweden joined England and Germany in the semifinals. France or the Netherlands will complete the lineup for the last four on Saturday.
“It is going to be an extremely tough game for us,” Eriksson said about playing England, which beat Spain in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. “We are going to have to be really on it.”
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