Auckland’s Fifa Women’s World Cup swansong has arrived - Eden Park hosting the 29th and final New Zealand game tonight.
Spain and Sweden will battle it out for a spot in the final, promising one of the most competitive matches of the tournament.
The last two matches held in the City of Sails have had matching crowds of 43,217, representing the third time this tournament New Zealand’s football match attendance record has been broken.
Tonight’s semifinal will be the last chance to break that record for an unprecedented fourth time.
For those heading to the game, here’s everything you need to know.
Road to the quarters
Sweden 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.
They ran on the momentum after that knocking out top tournament contenders, Japan in a convincing 2-1 victory.
Their opponents tonight, Spain, lost 4-0 to Japan in the group stage after two big wins over Zambia and Costa Rica.
Although perhaps not as organised at the back as the Swedes, Spain can score goals, and lots of them.
They went on to beat Switzerland 5-1 in the Round of 16, then the Netherlands 2-1 to qualify for the semifinal spot.
Head to head:
Sweden: ranked 3; Spain: ranked 6
The Swedes are at their ninth event and have finished third three times - in 1991, 2011 and 2019. Spain have only been to three World Cups. In 2019 they had their best run, reaching the Round of 16.
Both teams coming into this tournament were even contenders to go deep.
The TAB has Spain paying $1.55 to qualify for the final and Sweden $2.28.
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
Goalkeepers: Cata Coll, Misa Rodriguez, Enith Salon
Defenders: Ivana Andres, Ona Batlle, Olga Carmona, Laia Codina, Rocio Galvez, Oihane Hernandez, Irene Paredes
Midfielders: Teresa Abelleira, Aitana Bonmati, Irene Guerrero, Jenni Hermoso, Maria Perez, Alexia Putellas, Claudia Zornoza
Forwards: Mariona Caldentey, Athenea del Castillo, Esther Gonzalez, Eva Navarro, Salma Paralluelo, Alba Redondo
Coach: Jorge Vilda
Players to watch
Sweden: Zecira Musovic: The second-choice goalkeeper for Chelsea has had an unbelievable tournament. She was the main reason Sweden were able to survive the dominant United States and has saved 16 of the 17 shots on target she’s faced all tournament.
Sweden: Amanda Ilestedt: The 30-year-old is second in the Golden Boot race for the tournament, and she’s a centre back. She’s scored almost half of her team’s goals, while the side has only conceded two down the other end in regulation play. This team is known for being very organised at the back, a credit to the central defenders.
Spain: Aitana Bonmati: The 2022 Uefa Women’s Champions League’s most valuable player, Bonmati has been exceptional for Spain this winter. She can control a game and create opportunities like no one else, and can equally score some cracking goals. She could be the next Ballon d’Or winner.
Spain: Alexia Putellas: Putellas became the first Spanish player to win Fifa’s Best Player and the Ballon d’Or two years in a row for her performances in 2021 and 2022. She is an all-time great, winning the Champions League twice and the Primera División seven times. Returning just recently from an ACL injury, the Barcelona midfielder will be key for Spain.
It won’t be too bad for Auckland fans tonight as MetService has forecast a partly cloudy day, with possible light showers. However, if both tourists and locals have learned 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.
Sweden v Spain: Tuesday, August 15, Auckland, 8pm (NZT)
Australia v England: Wednesday, August 16, Sydney, 10pm (NZT)
Playoff for 3rd-4th: Saturday, August 19, Brisbane, 8pm (NZT)
Grand final: Sunday, August 20, Sydney, 10pm (NZT)
Ticket-holders to tonight’s Fifa Women’s World Cup match can get free public transport.
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.
Fifa fan festival
A free fan zone in Auckland is set up at The Cloud near Auckland’s waterfront. They’ll play the matches on a big screen along with music, entertainment, food and games.
How to catch the action
If you’re not at the stadium, the Herald will be live blogging the remaining 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.