The United States and Sweden played to a 0-0 draw in the middle match of the Women's World Cup group stage on Friday. In a match billed as a match-up between the U.S. and their former manager, Pia Sundhage, it became a clash much more defined by how good both of the teams are and the blows they traded over 90 good minutes. But in the end, neither team could finish off a chance to they settled for a point apiece.
Sweden kept the ball for much of the early going. Their midfield pinned the U.S. back and they did well to stay on the front foot. But for all of the Swedes' possession, they hardly turned it into chances. The American backline held up very well and turned Sweden away time and time again. It wasn't a matter of last ditch blocks or tackles either, as their positioning and reading of the game kept it from ever getting that far.
The Americans eventually started to get into the match and things evened out. They ended up with more of the ball and routinely found space going forward, but they couldn't generate much in the way of chances either.
The closest either team came to a goal in the first half was a Sweden shot from distance that caught Sydney Leroux's arm. She put her arm out and stopped a goal-bound shot, which should have earned Sweden a penalty, but the referee waved play on.
The U.S. were the better side for much of the second half, pushing forward and spending much of the time in Sweden's half. Carli Lloyd had a chance that was saved, while several crosses caused the Swedish defense problems. But while the U.S. got forward, they were exposed at the back and Sweden hit them on a couple dangerous counterattacks. Luckily, Julie Johnston was tremendous and repeatedly snuffed out the Swedes' counters.
The Americans' best chance came in the 72nd minute when Megan Rapinoe's cross found Abby Wambach, but the Swedish goalkeeper tipped it over the ball. The ensuing corner kick almost resulted in a goal as well, but Carli Lloyd came up millimeters short from getting her head on the ball in front of goal.
Sweden picked up the last opportunity, thanks to a set piece, and Meghan Klingenberg played the role of hero. A goal-bound shot looked set to put the U.S. behind just 15 minutes before the final whistle, but Klingenberg was able to head the ball off the line, off the crossbar, and away.
With the U.S. and Sweden each denied late, the two teams packed in and took the draw. Both teams are in good places to advance with the point and the Americans look likely to win the group to boot. All they need is a win against Nigeria in their group stage finale and Group D, as well as the easier road through the knockout stages that comes with it, is theirs.