Well. That wasn’t what we expected at all.
We all knew that Sweden have the capabilities to test the USWNT like no other team can but I don’t think anyone expected them to dominate as much as they did today. On the US side, the pre-match build up was centered around being at the Olympics again and getting a chance to avenge the 2016 result that saw them crashing out at the quarter-final stage. For Sweden though, their focus was on a good start to the tournament and then building on from that. They did just that and then some.
With Julie Ertz still not 100% ready to go, Lindsey Horan continued on as the No. 6 in the starting eleven and against Sweden, that experiment showed that Ertz has to be ready to go against the stronger teams in this tournament to prevent another result like this. The midfield shape was out of synch throughout the match and Sweden profited from that time and time again.
The biggest star of this game was Hanna Glas, Sweden’s right back, who overloaded the left hand side for the US along with Sofia Jakobsson, causing all kinds of problems for Crystal Dunn. Over and over again, she raced forward to great effect, either creating chances for her forwards and/or doing enough to earn dangerous set pieces.
Their forwards, Fridolina Rolfö and Jakobsson, continued to make out-to-in runs that troubled the US defense and Kosovare Asllani put in a dominant midfield performance especially in the first half. It was Blackstenius who profited the most as she was gifted three clear chances to get a hat trick for herself in the first 45 minutes if only her first touch had been better. Instead, she had to settle for a solitary goal in the 25th minute when she was picked out by Jakobsson and finished easily from close range.
The USWNT came close to levelling the score when Rose Lavelle hit the post with her header in the 45th minute but other than that, it was mostly all Sweden in that first half.
The second half saw a multitude of substitutes from Vlatko Andonovski, notably replacing Sam Mewis and Alex Morgan at half time with Julie Ertz and Carli Lloyd and for a little bit, the USWNT seemed to be gaining an upper hand in the match. That was quickly stymied once again as Blackstenius was quickest to a rebound in the 54th minute after the US failed to deal with one of Sweden’s numerous corners. The Swedes were made to wait a little as VAR checked the goal but no offside was found and they were clearly now in the ascendancy.
Christen Press then exemplified just how this game had gone for the USWNT when she hit the post in the 71st minute. Megan Rapinoe, another second half substitute, found her way to the byline and had her cross deflected into Press’ path by Hedvig Lindahl. Press swung her foot at the ball but could only watch as her shot came off the post and then cleared away by Sweden. Glas then proceeded to embark on another run down the pitch, linked up with Jakobsson and then produced a spectacular cross to find Lina Hurtig who angled the ball over Alyssa Naeher for Sweden’s third. Instead of being 2-1 down and racing to get back into the game, the USWNT were 3-0 down in a matter of seconds.
Not ones to give up easily, the USWNT continued to throw bodies forward but Sweden, and Lindahl, were not prepared to concede today and continued to deny the US at every opportunity, even right at the death.
It was a harsh lesson for the USWNT to learn and one Sweden was all too happy to dish out but hey, at least it’s only the first game of the group stages? Either way, Andonovski and the USWNT now realise that they have a lot to get right if they want to gain a Gold medal in Tokyo and will look to forget this performance in a hurry.