The US women’s national team had the worst possible start to their Olympics, when Sweden, the 5th ranked team in the world, destroyed the two-time defending world champions 3-0 at Tokyo Stadium in the Group G premiere. A position by Stina Blackstenius and a goal by Lina Hurtig did the damage for Sweden who dominated the Americans throughout the match and were the clearly better team of the day.
Start XI: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 5-Kelley O’Hara, 17-Abby Dahlkemper, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (captain), 2-Crystal Dunn (12-Tierna Davidson 80 ‘); 9-Lindsey Horan, 3-Samantha Mewis (8-Julie Ertz 46 ‘), 16-Rose Lavelle (6-Kristie Mewis 80’); 7-Tobin Heath (15-Megan Rapinoe 64 ‘), 13-Alex Morgan (10-Carli Lloyd 46’), 11-Christen Press
Unused substitutes: 14-Emily Sonnett, 18-Adrianna Franch
Sweden established themselves as the striker from the opening kick, and they continued throughout the first half. They consistently got USWNT to squeeze back into the counterattacks and test the American defense. Throughout the first half, Sweden had chances, but somehow the Americans were able to keep them off the board.
In the 25th minute, Sweden finally broke through and opened up for goals in the competition. Stina Blackstenius was able to step in front of Alyssa Naeher near the post to head in a post from Sofia Jakobsson to 1-0 Sweden.
Almost immediately after the restart, USWNT had a goal chance, but Tobin Heath was rejected for offside at the break. Sweden continued to push the issue throughout the first half, with several great goal chances, including one from 20 yards by Jonna Andersson who almost slipped under the hip of Alyssa Naeher.
USWNT seemed flat footed throughout the half, and their best goal chance came late in the first half. The team did not get their first corner until the 44th minute. While that corner was sent off by Sweden, but it was picked up by Kelley O’Hara near the midfield. She sent a long forward ball into the box which was nodded in by Rose Lavelle, but the ball hit the goal post.
USWNT went into the half with only 3 shots against Sweden’s 10, lost in ball possession 52% -48%, and let in 7 Swedish corners while they only earned 1. Julie Ertz and Carli Lloyd came into the match at the end of the half, and replaced Samantha Mewis and Alex Morgan.
USWNT looked a little better in the first minutes of the half, but Sweden continued to press and again it gave results. In the 54th minute, after pulling 2 corners in a row, Sweden struck again. Amanda Ilestedt nodded another corner from the far post, and Blackstenius was completely alone on the far post to clear the return to 2-0 Sweden.
A much better showing followed for USWNT. Some great play up the middle by Rose Lavelle led to a chance for Carli Lloyd to score after 62 minutes, but the shot hit the crossbar. Lloyd cut back, but her shot was rejected for a corner.
Megan Rapinoe came on for Tobin Heath 64 minutes into the game, but Sweden seemed a little tentative in their play as their organization fell to passable. 69 minutes into the game, Megan Rapinoe had a great chance to put his team ahead, but his kick from the left went wide.
Two minutes later, USWNT almost got its first. Rapinoe came deep into the box again, but this time she found Christen Press in the middle with the cross. Press press hits the left post and stays out. Sweden runs straight down the field and a long post in the box by Hanna Glas was headed home by Lina Hurtig to 3-0.
USWNT continued to press, but Sweden met them at every turn. The Americans had no answer to Sweden’s intensity and despite a couple of late chances, they did not manage to make it to the scoreboard. It was a long time since USWNT was dominated in a match, but Sweden played as if they were the top team in the world and took it right to USWNT.
It is the first loss under USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski, and it is the first loss for USWNT since a loss to France in January 2019. It ends their unbeaten streak of 44 matches, making Saturday’s match against New Zealand an absolute must for USA if they want to get out of this dangerous group G.