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GRAHAME L. JONES / ON SOCCER

Women's World Cup semifinal losers get consolation prizes

France and Sweden won't play for the World Cup title, but they did earn berths in the 2012 Olympics.

July 14, 2011|Grahame L. Jones | On Soccer
  • Even though defender Sara Thunebro and Sweden couldn't beat striker Shinobu Ohno and Japan, they did earn a berth to the Olympics.
Even though defender Sara Thunebro and Sweden couldn't beat striker… (Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty…)

No matter what the sport, losing in the semifinals of a world championship is always a crushing blow.

So it was for France and Sweden this week in the semifinals of the Women's World Cup in Germany, but in the case of the French and the Swedes, there is still a bronze medal and a silver lining.

As the top two European finishers in the tournament — they will play for third place in Sinsheim on Saturday, the day before the U.S.-Japan final in Frankfurt — they have qualified for the women's soccer tournament at next year's Olympic Games.

Considering that two-time and defending world champion Germany and former world champion Norway failed to reach London 2012, France and Sweden have good reason to be pleased at joining England, which qualified automatically as host, in the Olympic field.

"It's not a beautiful day, it's a very beautiful day," France Coach Bruno Bini said on the night when France's quarterfinal defeat of England and Germany's quarterfinal loss to Japan assured Les Bleus of an Olympic berth.

Thomas Dennerby, Sweden's coach, said he and his players already are thinking about next summer.

"Of course we're looking forward to it — knowing that we're going to play in the Olympics in some great stadiums across the U.K.," he told FIFA.com.

"Plus, it's so important for women's football in Sweden to know that we're always there when a big tournament takes place."

Other Olympic hopefuls

While Europe uses the World Cup to determine its Olympic qualifiers, soccer's North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) region has an actual qualifying tournament.

The one for London will be held in Vancouver from Jan. 19-29, 2012, and will feature eight teams seeking two Olympic places.

The teams are Canada, Mexico and the U.S., which won the gold in 1996, 2004 and 2008, along with three yet-to-be-determined teams from the Caribbean and two from Central America.

The tournament will take place at the renovated BC Place, which seats 54,500.

Finals tickets

Officially, at least according to FIFA, Sunday's final in Frankfurt is sold out.

Unofficially, most of those tickets were long ago sold to German fans who expected that their team would be in the final, defending the titles it won in 2003 and 2007.

With Germany consigned to also-ran status, many Germans will skip the game. Evidence of that can be quickly checked on EBay, where there are a few tickets on offer at $400 to $500 apiece on the American site but many on sale for one-tenth of that on the German site.

In Frankfurt but still out of luck? Head down to the Main River, where giant floating screens will show the game to those gathered on the banks.

American support

Before there was Abby Wambach there was Michelle Akers, and there's no question which team the former U.S. great believes will win Sunday's final.

"This team, it's fun to watch, because they've got guts and that heart and that grit, you know, to grind it out and do whatever it takes to win," Akers said on "The Early Show" on CBS on Thursday.

She was speaking, naturally, about the U.S., not Japan.

A world champion in 1991 and 1999 and an Olympic gold-medal winner in 1996, Akers and her "'91er" teammates laid the foundation for the 2011 side's success.

"The team I played for, we won two World Cups and an Olympics, and we got a good start for this team," Akers said. "So they're standing on our shoulders, and now they're continuing that legacy with, hopefully, another world championship."

grahame.jones@latimes.com

Jones reported from Ross-on-Wye, England.

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