For the American Women’s National Team, the Tokyo Olympics started the same way the Rio Olympics ended: with a stunning loss to Sweden.
What was expected to be a revenge game for the US instead was a validation performance by Sweden, which dominated from start to finish in a 3-0 win during the Tokyo Olympics box for both teams.
The US came to Tokyo who waited five years for the chance to avenge its shocking quarter-final loss to Sweden at the Rio 2016 Olympics. It was the USWNT’s first exit to a major tournament, as the team failed to reach the game won the gold medal for the first time since 1996 when women’s soccer was introduced to the games.
But it was Sweden who played as a team looking for gold and revenge, applying immediate pressure to create early scoring opportunities. After Sweden got three of the first seven halves kicking its edge in the opening 10 minutes, and the US struggled with misclears, careless gifts, cross-advised crosses and overall lethargic play, the World Cup champions soon found themselves in a position familiar and unexpected: play back.
Sofia Jakobsson sent a cross to Stina Blackstenius, whose header than diving goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher gave Sweden a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute. The first half deficit for the United States could have been bigger if it weren’t for a potential goal-saving slide attacked by Crystal Dunn in the 30th minute and a dive stop by Naeher on a deep strike minute later.
Six of Sweden’s 10 shots were on goal in the first half, compared to just one in three for the United States, which picked up a first-half corner kick.
The best chance of the first half scoring for the US came in the closing minutes when Rose Lavelle’s header from a ball was played on the head hit the post in the 45th minute.
Sweden took a 2-0 lead in a corner kick in the 56th minute when Amanda Ilestedt’s header hit the back post and the rebound was hit in by Blackstenius.
Lina Hurtig’s header cut off a feed from Hanna Ice made it 3-0 in the 72nd minute.
It was the first loss for the USWNT since January 2019 when they lost to France, hooking a 44-game unbeaten track. The USWNT also struggled with Sweden in April when the two teams played in a 1-1 draw during a friendly in Stockholm, and the US needed a late penalty kick from Megan Rapinoe to pull even.
Sweden earned three points for the victory, establishing itself as the early favorite in Group G. The United States now faces what must essentially be their game when they face New Zealand on Saturday at 7:30 am ET.
It’s not about revenge anymore, it’s about survival.