Sweden's sound strategy paid off again, and it's headed to the Olympics gold medal game in women's soccer for the first time ever.
After holding host Brazil to a 0-0 draw, Sweden won in penalties 4-3, with Lisa Dahlkvist scoring the decisive penalty for the second straight game. Sweden ousted the USA in shocking fashion in the quarterfinals, winning by that same score in the penalty round.
The two sides had met in the group stage, with Brazil easing its way to a 5-1 victory. Sweden was expected to operate with a more defensive tactic–the kind that caused Hope Solo to refer to the Swedes as "cowards"–in hopes of stifling Brazil's attack and then hitting on the counter.
That philosophy played out in front of a spirited crowd, with Brazil having the bulk of the chances but unable to score in 90 minutes, and the match went to extra time.
Prior to the extra periods Beatriz had a golden opportunity on a header off a free kick at the end of second-half stoppage time, but she sent it right into the waiting arms of Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, who stopped a number of goal-bound headers throughout regulation to keep the hosts off the board.
In extra time, Marta curled a long-range free kick through the wall that was earmarked for goal, but Lindahl again came up with a clean save, not allowing a rebound and preserving the scoreline and sending both clubs to penalty kicks for a second straight game. Sweden ousted the USA, while Brazil got by Australia in quarterfinal shootouts.
After Marta and Lotta Schelin each made their kicks, Cristiane and Kosovare Asllani had their respective spot kicks saved. Andressa Alves and Caroline Seger then converted to make it 2-2 after three rounds.
Rafaelle restored Brazil's edge only to have it matched by Nilla Fischer.
The tide turned on the fifth kick, when Lindahl dove to her right to deny Andressinha with an impressive save. Dahlkvist stepped up and beat Brazil goalkeeper Barbara, sparking a wild celebration in front of a stunned partisan crowd at the sold-out Maracanã.
Sweden will play Germany for gold on Friday, while Brazil will face Canada in the bronze-medal match.
Brazil has won silver twice (2004, 2008) and finished in fourth twice (1996, 2000), while Sweden's best finish had been fourth (2004). It's guaranteed at least silver.