The United States Women’s National Team had the worst possible start to their Olympics, as Sweden, the 5th ranked team in the world, destroyed the 2-time defending world champions 3-0 at Tokyo Stadium in the Group G opener. A brace by Stina Blackstenius and a goal by Lina Hurtig did the damage for Sweden, who dominated the Americans throughout the match and were the clear better team on the day.
Starting 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 Subs: 14-Emily Sonnett, 18-Adrianna Franch
Sweden established itself as the aggressor from the opening kick, and they continued throughout the first half.. They consistently had the USWNT scrambling in the back off counter attacks and testing 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 to open up scoring in the contest. Stina Blackstenius was able to step in front of Alyssa Naeher near post to head home a Sofia Jakobsson cross for the goal to make it 1-0 Sweden.
Almost immediately on the restart, the USWNT had a scoring chance, but Tobin Heath was whistled for offside on the break. Sweden continued to push the issue throughout the first half, with several great scoring chances, including one from 20 yards by Jonna Andersson that almost slipped under the hip of Alyssa Naeher.
The USWNT appeared flat-footed the entire half, and their best scoring chance came late in the first half. The team didn’t get its first corner kick until the 44th minute. While that corner was sent away by Sweden, but it was collected by Kelley O’Hara near midfield. She sent a long forward ball into the box that was headed on net by Rose Lavelle, but the ball hit the goalpost.
The USWNT entered the half with only 3 shots to Sweden’s 10, losing on possession 52%-48%, and conceding 7 Swedish corners while only earning 1. Julie Ertz and Carli Lloyd entered the match at the end of halftime, replacing Samantha Mewis and Alex Morgan.
The USWNT looked a bit better in the first few minutes of the half, but Sweden continued to push and once again it paid off. In the 54th minute, after drawing 2 corners in a row, Sweden struck again. Amanda Ilestedt headed another corner off the far post, and Blackstenius was all alone on the far post to clean up the rebound to make it 2-0 Sweden.
A much better showing ensued for the USWNT. A great ball in transition by Rose Lavelle found Carli Lloyd on the right side in the 62nd minute. Lloyd cut back in, but her shot was deflected out for a corner kick.
Megan Rapinoe subbed on for Tobin Heath in the 64th minute, but Sweden looked like they had every situation considered and covered. In the 69th minute, a great through ball found Megan Rapinoe, but Rapinoe had a tough angle on the shot in the box, and it was easy for Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl to collect.
Two minutes later, the USWNT almost got their first. Rapinoe once again got in deep in the box, but this time she found Christen Press in the middle with the cross. Press’s tap hits the left post and stays out. Sweden drives right down the field and a long cross into the box by Hanna Glas was headed home by Lina Hurtig to make it 3-0.
The USWNT continued to push, but Sweden met them at every turn. The Americans had no answer for Sweden’s intensity, and despite a couple late chances, they were not able to get on the scoreboard. It has been a long time since the USWNT has been dominated in a match, but Sweden played like they were the top team in the world and took it right to the USWNT.
It marks the first loss under USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski, and it’s the first loss for the USWNT since a January 2019 loss to France. It ends their 44-match unbeaten streak, and It makes Saturday’s match against New Zealand an absolute must win for the United States if they want to get out of this dangerous Group G.