For only the second time there will be no European team in the FIFA Women's World Cup final, but after their semi-final defeats Sweden and France were proud of their runs in Germany.
Sweden's hopes of going one better than their runners-up finish in 2003 were ended in a comprehensive 3-1 loss to Germany's conquerors Japan. Josefine Öqvist had given Thomas Dennerby's side the lead but they were unable to match the speed and verve of their opponents. France, meanwhile, gave two-time champions the United States a real test before a pair of late goals earned Pia Sundhage's team a 3-1 victory. Japan and the US meet in Frankfurt on Sunday for the trophy won on the last two occasions by Germany; only in 1999 had the final not contained a European side.
Bruno Bini, who became France coach after they missed out on the 2007 World Cup, took an upbeat stance. After all, his team and Sweden have pipped Germany and Norway to next year's Olympic tournament and look real contenders for UEFA Women's EURO 2013 with a squad based around UEFA Women's Champions League winners Olympique Lyonnais.
"I'm proud of my players," Bini said. "Life's still beautiful because we have earned the right to fight for third place, which is amazing when you consider nobody was talking about us two months ago. We came close to winning. The team were nearly there, but the goal didn't come and you have accept it."
US forward Abby Wambach, scorer of their second goal, added: "I want to thank France, their team and their coach. They are one of the best teams soccer-wise that we have played. They have a fantastic way of attacking, and it is an exciting game to watch. [France scorer] Sonia Bompastor is a friend of mine and she is one of the best left-backs in the world. It was a privilege to take the other side of the field against a great French team."
EURO 2013 hosts Sweden, who face France for bronze in Sinsheim on Saturday, beat the US in the group stage and finally broke their winless streak in knockout games under Dennerby in the last eight against Australia. But they were hit hard just before kick-off against Japan with a calf injury to captain Caroline Seger, whose regular midfield replacement Nilla Fischer was already suspended.
Defender Charlotte Rohlin took over the armband and told FIFA.com: "It was a proud moment for me to be captain, but of course we missed Caroline. She is very important for us and she did everything she possibly could to be involved tonight. She took the decision at a very late stage and she feels very sad now. As a team we had to come together and we were playing for her but we just couldn't make it."
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