Norway Coach Per-Mathias Hogmo called it a "brother fight" before the match, and he was proved right. The reigning Women's World Cup champion found its toughest opponent yet in Sweden, and the 21,411 fans at Spartan Stadium for the quarterfinal doubleheader saw a good match as Norway struggled to get the goals that gave it a 3-1 victory.
The victory means Norway will face China, a 2-0 winner earlier over Russia, on Sunday in Foxboro, Mass., for a shot at the championship game.
"We're very proud of what we showed today," Hogmo said. "We created a lot of chances in the second half. All in all, I'm pleased with the morale of our team."
The Swedes played surprisingly close for much of the first half, giving Norway some legitimate scares from the opening whistle. Sweden capitalized early on a free kick in the first minute, swinging the ball expertly to a streaking Victoria Svensson wide and low at the post. Keeper Bente Nordby was there, and the shot trickled just wide. In the 25th minute, Norwegian fans again had their hearts in their mouths when Karolina Westberg found a streaking Malin Gustafsson alone, with space in the box, but Gustafsson could not complete the play.
In the 38th minute, Tina Nordlund forced Nordby to make a reaction save against a 20-yard blast. The Swedes frequently illuminated the shakiness of the Norwegian defense: Brit Sandaune and Goril Kringen wilted under persistent challenges from Gustafsson.
On the other end, it frequently seemed just a matter of inches for the Norwegians. Captain Linda Medalen looked none the worse for wear despite playing with a fractured nose, and the dynamic trio of Hege Riise, Ann Kristin Aarones and Marianne Pettersen combined to create enough chances to give Sweden's Ulrika Karlsson a workout. But for a half, shots sailed wide, sailed long and sailed into Karlsson's mitts.
Then, when the gates opened, they opened wide: Norway rang up two goals in three minutes, and in spectacular fashion. The first came in the 53rd minute in familiar style: off the head of Aarones. Served up off a free kick by Silje Jorgensen, Aarones's lanky frame ripped through a line of Swedish defenders to steer the ball as far from Karlsson as possible.
Pettersen showed off some dazzling individual skills in the 56th minute when she cleanly beat Jane Tornqvist and Asa Lonnqvist single-handedly to fire a tightly angled shot into the far post. Bending cleanly around a helpless Karlsson, the ball came to rest just inside the line.
Riise provided an emphatic punctuation mark on the evening when she converted a penalty kick in the 72nd minute after Karlsson dragged down Pettersen as the last defender.
Sweden at least saved a berth in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney when Malin Mostrom scored in stoppage time to get her team's lone tally. The Women's World Cup quarterfinals are the qualifiers for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, with 7 of 8 teams getting the green light to go to Australia. (Australia, as the host, holds the eighth spot.)
"I think we gave them a very good fight," said Marika Domanski Lyfors, the Swedish coach. "We got nervous at times, and we didn't play well in the second half. It was Norway's early goal that hurt us."
Malin Andersson said, "The World Cup is over. It has been a good experience but with a bad ending."
CHINA 2, RUSSIA 0: China continued to live up to expectations in the first game of the doubleheader, easily beating Russia. Pu Wei got the Chinese women on the board with a rocket strike that sizzled between the outstretched hands of Svetlana Petko. Fed from 25 yards by captain Sun Wen, Pu settled the ball and then cleanly fired a shot that appeared at first would be easily covered. But the Russian defense, smothering until that point, seemed to evaporate, and the ball found its way into the lower left corner of the net.
Sun returned to plague the Russians again at the beginning of the second half, expertly floating a spot-kick into the box in the 55th minute that forced Petko wide into the post. The rebound fell at the feet of Jin Yan, and she did not miss the opportunity to slot the ball past a scrambling Petko.
The Chinese peppered Petko with 24 shots and the Russians, surprise quarterfinalists in their first World Cup, got off only two shots while spending most of the time chasing Chinese attackers.
Said Chinese Coach Ma Yuanan: "This is a cruel game. The Russians were nervous and didn't play at their best. We realized what their specialties were and stopped them. Overall, we played very well."
The loss means Russia is facing elimination from another competition as well, the competition for an Olympic berth. As the current worst losers, Russia must hope the other quarterfinal matches have a loss margin greater than two goals; while tied with Sweden for goals allowed, the Russians have fewer goals for.
CAPTION: China's Liu Ailing collides with Russia's Galina Komarova as Natalia Barbachina (10) moves in. China is first to advance to semis.
CAPTION: Goalkeeper Gao Hong raises her arms and basks in the moment after a second-half goal by the favored Chinese sealed her team's 2-0 Women's World Cup quarterfinal win over Russia.