Dogged Blågult team breaks Gold Medal favorite’s 44-match unbeaten streak.
Sweden’s Women’s National Team picked up right where they left off after their last affair with the U.S. Women’s National Team in Stockholm. Their entertaining April match concluded in a 1-1 draw after Megane Rapinoe scored on a penalty kick in the 87th minute.
FIFA’s 5th-ranked Swedish team proved to be a very intense test for Team USA. The Swedes pressured the Americans up, down, and across the pitch. They were also exceptionally dangerous during their transitions from defense to offense, leveraging some of greater Europe’s best attackers. To viewers and fans of both high-octane teams, it appeared that the Blue and Yellow were ever so close to topping the unbeatable Lady Yanks.
And that they did — Sweden soundly defeated the U.S. 3-0 in Tokyo Stadium in Japan very early (for North America) on Wednesday morning.
In the opening match of the year-long postponed Olympics, Sweden unleased its tenacious attackers — Sofia Jakobsson, Stina Blackstenius, and Lina Hurtig — at the world’s best back four and goalkeeper. They sent wave after wave of assaults until they cracked open the U.S’s dug-in defensive fortification.
Sweden scored once in the first half and twice in the second, with Blackstenius finding the back of the net twice and Hurtig once. The outcome could have been even more difficult for American fans to swallow; however, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher made numerous world-class saves throughout the match. Even left full-back Crystal Dunn made an impressive goal-saving slide tackle early in the match when she drove towards Naeher in the box and neutralized another potential goal.
“I just felt there were holes everywhere, defensively. There were a lot of mistakes we made technically as well,” Alex Morgan said during her post-match meeting with media. Megan Rapinoe succinctly summarized the team’s performance in her statement to the media:
Megan Rapinoe on the loss to Sweden: “We got our asses kicked, didn’t we? I thought we were a little tight, a little nervous, just doing dumb stuff.”
— Andrew Keh (@andrewkeh) July 21, 2021
The USA’s record against Sweden now stands at 23-7-12 and 1-1-1 in the Olympics. The loss ends the USWNT’s undefeated streak at 44 games, the second-longest in team history. They most likely will see one another again later in the tournament’s knock-out games, assuming the U.S. can regroup and restart another winning streak.
The loss was the first defeat under head coach Vlatko Andonovski. He now stands 22-1-1 in his first 24 games.
Next up for the USWNT is a crucial Group G game against FIFA 22nd-ranked New Zealand on Saturday, July 24. The kick-off will be at 5:30 a.m. MT from Saitama, Japan.
Lindsey Horan and Carli Lloyd are the only two players to appear in all 13 matches for the Lady Yanks in 2021. The team will lean heavily on the duo, who both must step up. “It’s really, really important for us to not dwell too much on this game,” the veteran Lloyd said during her interview with the press. “Quick turnaround, we’ve gotta get our focus on the next one. At the end of the day, a 3-nil loss is not good for us. We all can be better. I know every single one of us will learn from it and get better. Now it’s about digging in.”
Horan earned her 99th cap against Sweden. The amiable Coloradoan could achieve another milestone in her stellar career by playing in the must-win duel against New Zealand’s Football Ferns, and earn her 100th cap for the Stars and Stripes.