The United States Women’s soccer team saw their hopes of a third-straight World Cup come crashing down inches from glory. In the Round of 16 matchup against Sweden, a matter of centimeters made the difference between a victory and an agonizing defeat as Sweden edged out 5 to 4 in a penalty shootout following a tense and physical 120 minutes.
The hard-fought battle between the two contenders for the crown went on for the entire duration of the contest but failed to end in a winner or loser. Despite having ample opportunities to put Sweden away, the American squad failed in front of the goal and, as the referee blew the final whistle of the match, the scoreline read 0-0.
The shootout, however, would prove the deciding factor in this daunting matchup. Lindsey Horan and Andi Sullivan scored their spot-kicks respectively but, following Sullivan’s effort, Nathalie Bjorn’s effort flew above Alyssa Naeher’s outstretched arms.
With the score looking like 3-2 in favor of the US women, expectations were high for them to emerge victorious, only for Megan Rapinoe to become the first US player to miss her penalty, keeping the Swedes in the game with the score tied at 3-3.
As the shootout extended to the sudden death round, the tension and pressure were only bolstering. Kelly O’Hara had the chance to win it for the US women with a shot at the far post, but the shot narrowly missed, giving Lina Hurtig the opportunity to win the match for the Swedes.
Confusion filled the stadium as an instant replay showed the ball roll just over the line and, after a minute of deliberation, the referees declared it a goal, clinching the win for Sweden.
After the full-time whistle, Midfielder Lindsey Horan noted, “A lot went into this performance and it was kinda changing gears and playing like us and playing our style – being confident and patient and all of those things. We went out and did it. And I think we played beautiful football today. Penalties, to be frank, they suck. They’re cruel. I’m proud of every player who stepped up and took a penalty today. Score or miss, it’s courageous to go take a penalty.”
The results were a bitter blow to the American team, as it marked the earliest the US has ever been eliminated from the Women’s World Cup.
The U.S. now goes back to the drawing board as Sweden moves on to the quarterfinals to face Japan.
Alyssa Naeher nearly kept it out 🧤 pic.twitter.com/DjpatlgCKD
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 6, 2023