US women’s 44-game unbeaten run ended by Sweden at Olympics


US women's 44-game unbeaten run ended by Sweden at Olympics
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Soccer Football - Women - Group G - Sweden v United States - Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 21, 2021. Stina Blackstenius of the Sweden celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates as Alyssa Naeher and Abby Dahlkemper of the United States react REUTERS/Edgar Su

In Summary

  • The US, who go on to play New Zealand and Australia in their next two group games, hadn't lost since going down 3-1 to France in a friendly in January 2019
  • It was just the second loss over 90 minutes for the US at the Olympics. They were beaten in their first game of the 2008 tournament but still went on to win gold in Beijing

A pair of goals from Swedish forward Stina Blackstenius spelled catastrophe for the United States on Wednesday, as they suffered a shock 3-0 defeat in their Tokyo 2020 debut.

Fifth-ranked Sweden put the pressure on almost immediately with three shots in the first eight minutes, as the four-time Olympic gold medalists showed little sign of the stellar unbeaten run they have enjoyed since 2019.

Forward Stina Blackstenius converted in the 25th minute, rocketing a header past US keeper Alyssa Naeher with an assist from Sofia Jakobsson. The goalie had five saves in the first half as a dominant Swedish forward line crashed through the Americans’ defences.

Midfielder Rose Lavelle nearly equalised with a header in minute 45 off a corner kick from Christen Press but hit the post.

The addition of veteran midfielder Julie Ertz did little to revive the US in the second half, as Blackstenius again scored in the 54th minute.

The match was personal for Team USA: The Swedes knocked the four-time World Cup winners out of the tournament on penalties in the quarter-finals in 2016.

But their much hoped-for revenge in front of 48,000 empty seats inside the Tokyo Stadium was not to be, as forward Christen Press missed a wide open net at close range midway through the second half.

Swedish midfielder Lina Hurtig then heaped on more pain with a clinical header to give her side a three-goal cushion a minute later.

The Rio defeat marked the US team’s earliest exit in Olympic history, after previously reaching the final of every edition of the Games since 1996, when the women’s event was introduced.

The two sides drew 1-1 in an April friendly, the only blemish to the United States’ 2021 record of 11 wins in 12 matches and a prescient warning of the challenges the team would face in their 2020 Tokyo kickoff.

The defeat was the US’ first under head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who took over from Jill Ellis in 2019.

The pandemic-postponed Games kicked off earlier Wednesday with a victory for the Olympic hosts, as Japan’s softball team walloped Australia 8-1 at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium.

The US next face New Zealand in the group stage, while Sweden play Australia, both on Saturday.

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