Sharjah: Sweden created their own piece of history when they reached the quarter-finals of the 2013 Fifa U-17 World Cup with a 2-1 win over Japan on Monday.
Playing a cool, calm and collected Japanese side, Sweden relied on fast and accurate counter-attacks to find the net in the 11th minute through Valmir Berisha and then in the 36th minute — thanks to some sloppy goalkeeping from Teimosii Shiraoka — through Gustav Engvall. Linus Wahlqvist scored an own goal in the 56th minute to help the Asians remain in the match.
This is Sweden’s maiden outing in this competition and their previous best performance on the global stage was their first-round exit from the Fifa U-20 World Cup way back in 1991. Only one Asian team — Saudi Arabia — have ever overcome European opposition in the knockout stages of an U-17 World Cup.
As one of two sides along with Brazil who won all three group matches, Japan confidently started the game, their trademark short and concise passing in full flow.
Koji Miyoshi from the right wing was particularly effective, and the Kawasaki Frontale midfielder came close to scoring on a couple of occasions within a minute.
In the sixth minute, Miyoshi had a crack at the Swedish goal but his volley flew off his shin guard, and in the second instance a minute later, he mistimed his shot and it went straight into the waiting arms of goalkeeper Sixten Mohlin.
It was against the run of play that Sweden opened the scoring in the 11th minute when Berisha drove home following a cross from the left by Mirza Halvadzic.
Japan grabbed an equaliser in the 33rd minute when Miyoshi slotted home after receiving from Kosei Uryu, but the diminutive striker was ruled offside.
Sweden doubled the score in the 36th when Engvall had the easiest of touches into an empty goal after Japan goalkeeper Shiraoka had spilled a shot from Halvadzic.
Yet Japan never gave up and Sweden goalkeeper Shiraoka came to the rescue of his team in the 43rd minute when he flung himself to keep out a firm effort from Miyoshi.
Sweden nearly added a third immediately after the restart when Engvall passed to Elias Andersson, but the captain shot into the side netting.
In the 52nd minute, Japan’s Taro Sugimoto struggled to keep balance inside the area and allowed his shot to balloon over. That looked like a warning to the Scandinavians as Japan finally managed to pull a goal back in the 56th minute when Hiroki Ogawa ran down the right and his cross was bundled into his own net by Linus Wahlqvist.
Two minutes later, substitute Taro Sugimoto fired a snap shot past the upright. Sweden made changes and packed their defence with nine players, and despite some sustained pressure from Japan, the scoreline remained intact.