Heartbreak for USWNT as World Cup Run Ends in PK Defeat to Sweden
The US Women’s National Team’s bid for a record fourth World Cup title came to a shocking and dramatic end on Sunday, as they fell to Sweden 5-4 in penalty kicks after a hard-fought 0-0 draw through 120 minutes of play.
The Round of 16 clash in Melbourne was indeed not the ending the Americans envisioned. But Sweden deserves immense credit for a disciplined defensive performance and for battling to the final kick of an epic seven-round shootout.
The USWNT controlled possession and out-shot Sweden 22-9, frequently unlocking their defense. But a phenomenal 11-save outing from Swedish goalkeeper Zecira Musovic kept Sweden’s hopes alive.
In the end, it came down to the lottery of penalties. Megan Rapinoe and Sophia Smith both failed to convert for the USWNT, while Kelley O’Hara hit the post with the Americans’ seventh attempt. That set the stage for Lina Hurtig to send the Swedes through with the winning kick.
The loss marks the earliest World Cup exit for the USWNT since the tournament began in 1991. Questions will certainly be asked of manager Vlatko Andonovski, who curiously left creative midfielder Savannah DeMelo on the bench despite her bright play earlier in the tournament.
The Americans never seemed to hit their full stride in the knockout stage, a continuation of their uneven form in the group phase. For all the talent on paper, this USWNT side failed to click and live up to lofty expectations.
Nonetheless, Sweden deserves plenty of acclaim for a poised performance under intense pressure. Their organized defense and the heroics of Musovic in the net halted the mighty USWNT attack.
In the cruelest way possible, this Swedish side gained some measure of revenge after the USWNT knocked them out of the last two Olympics. The curse of the penalty shootout will haunt the Americans, but Sweden stood firm and seized their moment.
For the USWNT, it’s a devastating loss that prompts serious reflection. The road to a record fourth star proves ever more complex, as the Americans bow out shy of the semifinals for the first time.
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