Sweden set up a UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship semi-final against Spain as they topped second qualifying round Group 4.
Having gone out in the second qualifying round in all five previous seasons, Sweden ensured first place with a match to spare as they beat Switzerland 1-0 and group hosts Czech Republic 2-1. A 1-0 loss to Italy on the final day did not detract from their achievement as they booked a last-four showdown with two-time winners Spain in Nyon on 25 June, with the victors due to face either Belgium or Poland three days later.
"We are incredibly excited," said coach Yvonne Ekroth after the decisive defeat of the Czechs. "We were the better team, obviously, although it was a bit nervous after they pulled one back. But the girls did a fantastic job."
Ekroth's side stole a march on day one as they beat Switzerland thanks to a 65th-minute Adelisa Grabus goal, while the Czech Republic drew 2-2 against Italy. The hosts went ahead through Kristýna Daňková on 32 minutes, only for Francesca Pittaccio to swiftly equalise. After the break, Micol Corsiani brought Daňková down in the Italy area, but Francesca Durante saved Tereza Szewieczková's penalty – and although Kateřina Svitková eventually put the Czechs ahead again, substitute Martina Piemonte levelled with two minutes left.
Two days later, Sweden raced into a two-goal lead after 23 minutes against the Czech Republic thanks to Anna Oskarsson and Filippa Angeldal. Lucie Kotková pulled one back, but it was not enough to keep Czech hopes alive, and Sweden knew they would be through unless Italy beat now eliminated Switzerland. Italy did take the lead on four minutes through Ambra Pochero, but two second-half Julia Stierli goals ensured a 2-1 Swiss win and Sweden's progress.
A Szewieczková double on the final day then ensured a 2-0 win for the Czechs against Switzerland, thus sealing second place in the section for Eva Haniaková's troops. As for Sweden, they were undone by Eleonora Goldoni's 31st-minute goal in a 1-0 loss to Italy that took none of the gloss off their semi-final berth.
"We really wanted to conclude the tournament with a good result against Italy; we didn't succeed, but I am satisfied with the whole tournament," said Ekroth. "We have qualified from the second qualifying round for the first time. After losing to Italy, we are not so joyful but we just have to take a shower, rest and then we will be really happy.
"The first match against Switzerland was very important for us. It was good to beat them and get some confidence for the next games. Italy are a very good team – not so physical, more technical. They played their game and we could not do anything about it. The other games were more aggressive, but it was good to face different styles of football in the tournament."
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