Sweden dumps defending champions USA out of World Cup on penalties
August 6, 2023 07:21 PM
Sweden stunned the United States 5-4 in a sudden-death penalty shootout Sunday to consign the defending champions to their earliest-ever Women's World Cup exit on Sunday.
Sweden set up a quarter-final against Japan and ended the Americans' dreams of an unprecedented third World Cup title in a row in the most painful and dramatic fashion.
The title-holders dominated the 90 minutes of normal time but a breakthrough proved elusive with Swedish goalkeeper Zecira Musovic making some startling saves to keep her side alive.
With the 0-0 deadlock remaining after extra-time it went to penalties in Melbourne -- and the tension went up another notch.
Sweden's Nathalie Bjorn was the first to miss, skying high, only for Megan Rapinoe to do the same.
Both teams missed again, but when Kelley O'Hara hit the post, it was all down to Sweden's Lina Hurtig. She hit the winner -- but only after VAR ruled her kick had crossed the line by the most slender of margins.
It was an inglorious end for the US and especially Rapinoe, the Golden Boot winner at the 2019 tournament. She will retire at the end of the season.
"This is like a sick joke. For me personally, I'm just like, this is dark comedy. I missed a penalty," the 38-year-old told Fox Sports.
"I think it can be cruel and just not our day."
She added: "I thought we played really well. I'm so happy for us that we went out like that, playing the way that we did."
Expectations were high coming into the tournament for the four-time champions, who had made at least the semi-finals at every World Cup.
But despite belatedly turning up with a performance against Sweden to be proud of, Vlatko Andonovski's side have never really got going at this tournament.
They leave with just one win, against Vietnam, and were held by the Netherlands, debutants Portugal and Sweden, who are now the highest-ranked side left at three in the world.
This devastating early exit will be seen as a major underachievement for the Americans, who have been the superpower of international women's football for so long.
It may have been a different story but for Musovic, who was named player of the match and kept the US at bay for 120 minutes.
"Somehow we managed to get to the penalty shootout, where we showed a lot of courage and I'm extremely proud of the girls that we could go there and win the game," said the stopper, who had got the nod as goalkeeper ahead of Jennifer Falk.
"It's a huge win for us. I had a really good feeling before the game."
- Musovic stands firm -
Andonovski came into the game under pressure after the Americans laboured into the last 16.
He made two changes from the team that drew 0-0 against Portugal, with Emily Sonnett in for suspended midfielder Rose Lavelle and Trinity Rodman preferred up front to Lynn Williams.
Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson rested nine players in their last group game but reverted to their strongest XI with strikers Fridolina Rolfo and Stina Blackstenius returning.
After both sides sized each other up, the USA worked the first clear chance on six minutes, but Andi Sullivan's drive from the edge of the box skewered wide.
As the game wore on the US assumed midfield control and a livewire Rodman went close to the opener after 18 minutes, letting fly from distance with Musovic palming away.
She was forced into a similar stop minutes later, again from Rodman, but could only watch as a towering Lindsey Horan header rattled the crossbar in the best opportunity of a lively half the US dominated.
The title-holders carried the momentum into the second stanza and only a world-class reflex save from Musovic kept Sweden on level terms, turning a vicious strike from Horan around the post at full stretch.
It was all the United States and a goal seemed inevitable, but Musovic again kept Sweden in the game with another cracking save in the 88th minute, this time from Alex Morgan.
She pulled off two more brilliant saves in extra time to take the match to penalties, setting the stage for a nail-biting finale.
"We know what we are capable of, we tried to stay humble through the whole game," said Musovic, whose Sweden side now face a major challenge against a slick Japan team who have been one of the surprises of the tournament.