Sweden produced a magnificent performance to book a semi-final date with Spain and leave Japan’s Women’s World Cup dreams in tatters.
Japan were seen as title contenders after gliding through the group stage and defeating Norway in the last 16.
Here, they fell behind to Amanda Ilestedt’s goal before Manchester City midfielder Filippa Angeldahl doubled Sweden’s lead from the penalty spot.
Japan were awarded a controversial spot-kick, but Riko Ueki’s 76th-minute attempt hit the bar, before West Ham’s Honoka Hayashi pulled a goal back in the 87th minute.
That lifeline came moments after Aoba Fujino hit the woodwork from a free-kick, but Sweden saw the game out to make it into the last four.
New Arsenal defender Ilestedt has emerged as one of the players of the tournament, and she now has four goals.
This time she struck from the edge of the six-yard box in the 32nd minute after Japan failed to clear.
Goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita kept Japan in the contest when she tipped an attempt by Sweden captain Kosovare Asllani onto the post, while Stina Blackstenius had earlier missed a glorious chance when the game was goalless.
There looked to be no coming back for Japan when Angeldahl doubled the lead from the spot after the video assistant referee (VAR) spotted a handball by Japan’s Liverpool midfielder Fuka Nagano.
Japan had shone at this World Cup, scoring 14 times in their previous four matches.
But they struggled to test Sweden keeper Zecira Musovic enough at Eden Park as Sweden moved to within one win of a first World Cup final since 2003, when they lost to Germany in the final in the United States.
Sweden turn on the style
Sweden needed a last-minute winner to defeat South Africa in their opening game, while they trailed the United States 3-2 on penalties before eliminating the four-time world champions in the last round.
They have shown hunger and desire to reach back-to-back World Cup semi-finals and will fancy their chances against Spain back at Eden Park next Tuesday.
Peter Gerhardsson’s side were riding the crest of a wave after eliminating the USA and they successfully stifled a Japan side who had been scoring goals for fun.
Japan only came alive in the closing stages and even after Hayashi scored, Sweden negotiated the 10 minutes of additional time.
After playing 120 minutes against the USA five days earlier, the Swedes once again ran themselves into the ground to deservedly book a semi-final spot.
One step too far
Japan have shown they can counter-attack and cut through opposition defences at pace throughout the tournament.
Yet this was one step too far for the Nadeshiko.
They looked a pale imitation of the side that had reached the quarter-finals in style, and got their first attempt on goal in the 63rd minute.
Despite a strong ending, hopes of reaching a third World Cup final in their most recent four attempts were extinguished by an impressive Sweden.
Japan have been great entertainers at this tournament and many of their players were inconsolable at the full-time whistle.
The exit of the 2011 world champions means there will be a new World Cup winner.
- 12TakahashiSubstituted forHamanoat 90+2′minutes
- 10NaganoSubstituted forHayashiat 81′minutes
- 6SugitaSubstituted forEndoat 45′minutes
- 11TanakaSubstituted forUekiat 52′minutesBooked at 79mins
- 7MiyazawaSubstituted forSeikeat 81′minutes
- 23RubenssonSubstituted forBennisonat 84′minutes
- 19Rytting KanerydSubstituted forJakobssonat 84′minutes
- 9AsllaniSubstituted forJanogyat 72′minutes
- 18RolföSubstituted forHurtigat 73′minutes
- Esther Staubli
Match ends, Japan 1, Sweden 2.
Second Half ends, Japan 1, Sweden 2.
Foul by Stina Blackstenius (Sweden).
Saki Kumagai (Japan) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Sweden. Conceded by Risa Shimizu.
Attempt missed. Maika Hamano (Japan) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right following a set piece situation.
Foul by Filippa Angeldahl (Sweden).
Aoba Fujino (Japan) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Japan. Maika Hamano replaces Hana Takahashi.
Attempt missed. Kiko Seike (Japan) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Riko Ueki.
Attempt saved. Riko Ueki (Japan) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Aoba Fujino with a cross.
Corner, Japan. Conceded by Magdalena Eriksson.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Zecira Musovic (Sweden).
Goal! Japan 1, Sweden 2. Honoka Hayashi (Japan) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner.
Aoba Fujino (Japan) hits the bar with a right footed shot from outside the box from a direct free kick.
Foul by Magdalena Eriksson (Sweden).
Aoba Fujino (Japan) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Sweden. Sofia Jakobsson replaces Johanna Rytting Kaneryd.
Substitution, Sweden. Hanna Bennison replaces Elin Rubensson.