Auckland’s Eden Park is set for another recording-breaking night when it hosts the quarter-final between Japan and Sweden at the Fifa Women’s World Cup.
More than half of the matches held in the City of Sails have been a sell-out. Three times this tournament, New Zealand’s football match attendance record has been broken.
Tonight’s match is on track to do the same. It’s set to be the most competitive game Auckland has hosted, due to the nations’ more comparable rankings and with a semifinal spot on the line.
For those heading to the game, here’s everything you need to know.
Road to the quarters
Japan dominated group C to come out on top. They found the net 11 times across the three games and never conceded. Though they performed tidily against significantly lower-ranked Zambia and Costa Rica, they had a statement final group victory over sixth-ranked Spain, winning 4-0.
In the round of 16, Japan continued their momentum by beating Norway 3-1.
Sweden also won all three of their group matches against South Africa, Italy and Argentina. Their toughest match came in the knockout round taking on world No 1 the United States.
The Scandinavians held out against the dominant American side all the way to a penalty shootout, just managing to get over the line. Literally. Sweden scored an infamous winning penalty against the two-time defending champs, deemed a goal by just a millimetre.
SWEDEN ELIMINATED THE USWNT BY A MILLIMETER 🤯 pic.twitter.com/xDQn97qjyF— ESPN (@espn) August 6, 2023
Head to head:
Sweden: ranked 3; Japan: ranked 11
The Japanese are at their ninth World Cup. They were champions in 2011 and runners-up in 2015. The Swedes are also at their ninth event and finished third in 1991, 2011 and 2019.
Before the tournament started, most would have picked Sweden to take this game out. However, as fans have seen this tournament progress, Japan has arguably been the strongest nation, becoming favourites to lift the trophy.
The TAB has Japan paying $1.52 to qualify and Sweden $2.30.
Goalkeepers: Ayaka Yamashita, Momoko Tanaka, Chika Hirao (Albirex Niigata)
Defenders: Risa Shimizu, Moeka Minami, Saki Kumagai, Shiori Miyake, Kiko Seike, Miyabi Moriya, Rion Ishikawa, Hana Takahashi
Midfielders: Fuka Nagano, Hinata Miyazawa, Hikaru Naomoto, Jun Endo, Yui Hasegawa, Hina Sugita, Honoka Hayashi, Aoba Fujino
Forwards: Riko Ueki, Mina Tanaka, Maika Hamano, Remina Chiba
Coach: Futoshi Ikeda
Goalkeepers: Tove Enblom, Jennifer Falk, Zecira Musovic
Defenders: Jonna Andersson, Nathalie Bjorn, Magdalena Eriksson, Amanda Itestedt, Hanna Lundkvist, Anna Sandberg, Linda Sembrant
Midfielders: Filippa Angeldahl, Kosovare Asllani, Hanna Bennison, Lina Hurtig, Elin Rubensson, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Olivia Schough, Caroline Seger
Forwards: Stina Blackstenius, Sofia Jakobsson, Madelen Janogy, Rebecka Blomqvist, Fridolina Rolfo
Coach: Peter Gerhardsson
Players to watch
Japan: Hinata Miyazawa: The 23-year-old currently leads the Golden Boot race with five goals for her country so far. Miyazawa has scored five of the six shots on targets she’s had so will naturally be a tough opponent for the Swedes to stop.
Japan: Yui Hasegawa: Hasegawa is a versatile midfielder, adapting to attacking or defensive responsibilities for club Manchester City. She represented Japan at the last World Cup and Olympic Games and has scored 14 goals in 65 appearances.
Sweden: Zecira Musovic: The second-choice goalkeeper for Chelsea has had an unbelievable tournament. She was the main reason Sweden was able to survive the dominant United States and has saved 16 of the 17 shots on target she’s faced all tournament.
Sweden: Magdalena Eriksson: An experienced defender for Sweden, Eriksson has had a winning season with Chelsea in the Women’s Super League. Since her last World Cup, she’s twice been named in the Fifa FIFPro World XI and won Swedish Defender of the Year.
Thankfully for Auckland fans, MetService has forecasted sun for most of the day, with possible light showers late in the evening. However, if both tourists and locals have learnt anything from the past three weeks of games, the weather in this city can be quite unpredictable. Pack some warm layers and a rain jacket just in case.
Ticket holders to Fifa Women’s World Cup matches can get free public transport in each host city on game days.
For Auckland: your ticket gets you free transport on all trains to Kingsland station, all special bus services and scheduled bus services from two hours before kickoff. To plan your journey, use the Auckland Transport Events Planner.
Spain vs Netherlands: Friday July 11, Wellington, 1pm
Japan vs Sweden: Friday July 11, Auckland, 7.30pm
Australia vs France: Saturday, July 12, Brisbane, 7.00pm
England vs Colombia, Saturday July 12, Sydney, 10.30pm
Fifa fan festival
A free fan zone in Auckland will be set up on Friday from midday and Saturday from 10am at The Cloud near Auckland’s waterfront. They’ll play the matches on a big screen along with music, entertainment, food and games. There are also fan zones available in Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin.
How to catch the action
If you’re not at the stadium, the Herald will be live blogging all quarter-final matches on nzherald.co.nz/sport. Sky is showing the match live on Sky Sport 1. The match is also live on free-to-air on Prime and live streaming on Sky Sport Now.