USWNT shelled by Sweden, lose opening game at Olympics in Tokyo

6 days ago

The Olympics started with a whimper for the United States Women's National Team.

Heavy gold-medal favorites heading into the summer soccer tournament, the USWNT were thrashed 3-0 at the hands of Sweden, a bogey team of late for the Americans.

Sweden thoroughly dominated the USWNT in Wednesday's Group G opener, with Stina Blackstenius scoring on either side of halftime and Lina Hurtig putting the icing on the cake in the 72nd minute at Tokyo Stadium.

As FOX Sports Soccer Writer Doug McIntyre put it, "this one was not close at all."

Blackstenius scored the opener in the 25th minute, putting the USWNT on their heels with a headed effort.

The USWNT had their chances in the first half but couldn't get past Hedvig Lindahl in Sweden's goal.

That said, Sweden could have been up by more heading into the break, if not for some heroic defending from Crystal Dunn and some timely saves from Alyssa Naeher.

At halftime, U.S. manager Vlatko Andonovski made a pair of subs, bringing on veterans Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz to help stem the tide.

However, on the 54-minute mark, Blackstenius struck again off a Sweden corner kick.

The USWNT failed to meet the initial delivery, which was flicked onto Naeher's far post ⁠— literally. It hit the unattended upright, and Blackstenius pounced to punch it in for a 2-0 lead. 

The aerial dominance continued for Sweden on their third goal. In the 72nd minute, Hanna Glas scampered into acres of space down the USWNT's flank and floated a looping cross into the box for Hurtig.

From there, Hurtig just had to beat Naeher, and the Swedish attacker did.

Just like that, the USWNT's streak of 44 consecutive matches without a loss was snapped. 

The U.S. women hadn't lost a match since January 2019 and hadn't lost under Andonovski, who was appointed in October 2019.

In fact, the USWNT had failed to win just once in the new manager's tenure, posting a 22-0-1 record with Andonovski at the helm ⁠— prior to Wednesday.

Ironically, that draw on Andonovski's record came April 10 against Sweden in a friendly. And when the USWNT previously found themselves on the Olympic stage, it was the Swedes who famously knocked them out of the quarterfinals after a penalty shootout.

That was when then-goalkeeper Hope Solo said Sweden were "a bunch of cowards" at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

There was nothing that could be construed as cowardly about how Sweden played this time around, though. As McIntyre pointed out, "They dominated the U.S. from start to finish."

Or, as Megan Rapinoe, who came on as a sub in the 64th minute, said after the game, "We got our asses kicked, didn’t we?"

The silver lining for the USWNT? They lost in their opener at the 2008 Beijing Games, falling 2-0 to Norway, then went undefeated on a run to the gold medal.

For history to repeat itself, they'll have to start with a critical tilt against New Zealand on Saturday. Even though the U.S. women don't control their fate in terms of winning the group, finishing as runners-up would be enough for them to make it to the quarterfinals.

Former USWNT superstar Abby Wambach voiced her support for the U.S. women, implying that the loss to Sweden might very well be a wake-up call.

We'll see if that's the case and if the USWNT can bounce back beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday.

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