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2023 Women’s World Cup - USA 0(4)-0(5) Sweden: excitement, dread, and demise as the Americans are eliminated

A team that was second in their group lost to a team that was first in their group and the USA are eliminated in the first knockout round

Sweden v USA: Round of 16 - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Photo by Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

Following a concerning if not bleak group stage the USA would face Group G winners Sweden as they searched for something resembling form that would enthrall fans and terrify opponents... or at least win convincingly... or win at all... hopefully. In an effort to address what wasn’t working in the first three matches, Vlatko made some changes to the lineup and shifted formation to at least give a different look to the side and spark more danger in the attack.

The USA made some changes as it lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Emily Sonnett getting a start.

Sweden made a good lineup graphic with more of an indication of how they lined up as Peter Gerhardsson lined the Blågult up in a 4-3-3, it looked like at least. It’s still Sweden, they sat back a lot and didn’t want much of the ball.

In the end, there are very few 0-0 draws that are actually fun if not totally terrifying to watch. The USA played their best soccer of the tournament and looked like its old self. The team clearly missed Rose Lavelle and Alex Morgan, though she almost won the game at the death, continued to struggle but a flurry of chances tested Swedish keeper Zecira Musovic who had a player of the match performance. Still, when things stalled for the USA attack in the second half adjustments were lacking and the game went to penalties. After a back and forth shootout with both teams trading goals, misses, and saves Sweden won by a literal hair and eliminated the röd, vit, och blå.


The shift to a 4-3-2-1 was a good one as the USA was able to hold more possession, create chances off of the wings and get Lindsey Horan forward. The move to play Emily Sonnett in midfield was a good one as the veteran provided a steady presence in the middle of the field.

The changes paid off in terms of chances as Trinity Rodman menaced the Swedes down the right side. Early on she worked a pass to Sophia Smith at the top of the penalty area but was quickly smothered by players in yellow and the ball found its way to Andi Sullivan at the top of the box. The midfielder’s shot went well wide, but it was a promising sequence for the USA.

Rodman put a shot on target as she found space to rip one toward goal between the closing Sweden defense.

Sweden had a couple of corners that forced Alyssa Naeher to punch the ball away but outside of that the USA closed down their attacks before they could turn into trouble.

Then Rodman almost scored again.

The USA also showed something that’s been lacking in this World Cup, danger on set pieces, as Lindsey Horan nodded one toward goal that bonked the crossbar nearly giving the Americans a 1-0 lead.

In a familiar refrain, Rodman found space to work on the right and drove into the box to send a cross into the zone of uncertainty but no player in white and blue splatter was there to capitalize on it. Another chance just before the half also went wanting as the teams went into the break at 0-0.

While the Americans failed to score, it was easily the best half of soccer they played in the tournament as the changes to the lineup and formation switch seemed to get the best out of the players as Sweden was slow to adjust.

The second half began with an early shot from Horan being pawed away by Musovic as it looked like the Stars and Stripes would continue to find chances.

Sadly, there wouldn’t be much else to point out for much of the half. Rodman was taken out because of being sick and possibly because nobody had heard of the FLU GAME, NEXT TIME GET HER MORE GUM OR SOMETHING IT’S THE WORLD CUP. So Lynn Williams came on in the 60th to play on the right. But Sweden figured out how to shut down the danger areas that the USA was finding in the first half.

What followed wasn’t great in terms of the play on the field or the management or lack thereof.

Meanwhile, whatever this means, possibly some players were substituted as Sweden deployed the “let’s try to win in the last 10 minutes” strategy, Sweden did it as the introduction of Lina Hurtig would be prophetic.

Alex Morgan’s name got mentioned after a quiet 89 minutes when she put a close range header on target that was pushed away as the game crept dreadfully toward extra time.

Musovic was really on her game the entire 90 minutes and her work in goal fittingly forced the game into an extra 30 minutes as the teams couldn’t finish things in regulation.

Naturally, after a half with two shots and an attack that looked like it had been figured out by Sweden, Vlatko declined to do any manager stuff and the USA began extra time with no personnel changes.

The next 10 minutes saw more of the same as the USA had a difficult time creating chances. After 100 minutes of not a lot except almost winning the game in the 89th, Morgan was taken off for Megan Rapinoe and in the subsequent two minutes after her departure the USA had two solid chances.

The first 15 minutes of extra time came to a close and the USA kept things the same as penalties loomed. And things stayed the same as far as Sweden being cautious, Musovic being as impossible to get through as a January blizzard in Gävle, and the management decisions from the USA.

There were signs of life from the manager’s area as one minute before penalties Kelley O’Hara and Kristie Mewis came in for Emilys Fox and Sonnett as the entire country SHOOK IN FEAR AND BURNED THEIR IKEA FURNITURE BECAUSE MUSOVIC HAS BEEN MORE FEARSOME THAN GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS AND THE USA DOESN’T HAVE THE BEST RECORD IN SHOOTOUTS AGAINST THE BlLAGULT.

And the shootout was... it was wild. Andi Sullivan stepped up and scored the first shot to confirm that Musovic is human. Watch the highlights, but Megan Rapinoe lost her 2019 magic and missed her shot, Naeher stepped up and buried a chance and made a nice stop, Smith and O’Hara both missed and then Lina Hurtig stepped up and caused some pain with the shootout locked at 4-4.

Naeher blocked her shot just for the ball to cross the line by a hair before the USA keeper could knock it away. The goal line technology check confirmed the goal and the Americans were eliminated by Sweden in a penalty shoot out. You know, again.

But goodness, it was close.

In the end...