The United States women’s national team clawed their way back into their quarter-final match against Sweden, but were unable to find a winner in 120 minutes of action. The lottery of penalties ultimately doomed the four-time gold medalists.
It was the first penalty shootout in the history of women’s soccer at the Olympics, and the USWNT were unable to conquer their nerves as Sweden emerged victorious, 4-3.
Christen Press skied her penalty and Alex Morgan had a weak attempt saved while Hope Solo could only stop one of Sweden’s five attempts. In the end, a spirited Sweden side got no less than they deserved.
The opening half of play saw the USA dominate possession and consistently whip balls into the Sweden box, but it all appeared a bit aimless and ad-libbed from the world’s number one ranked side.
Questions will certainly be asked of manager Jill Ellis and the approach the USA took to the game. While the USA boasts the most talented lineup in the world, some semblance of a game plan is surely required at this level.
Sweden defended with 10 players behind the ball, and a goal didn’t look likely from the Scandinavian side.
The game’s narrative was completely thrown on its head at the hour mark. While the USA had been wary of counter attacks, the manner in which they allowed Sweden to take the lead was baffling.
A simple ball through the heart of the American defense allowed Stina Blackstenius to tear through the USA central defender pairing. She finished cooly beyond Solo and the unthinkable had become a reality.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 12, 2016
The USA threw on Crystal Dunn and Megan Rapinoe for more pace and better service, respectively, and their attack became much more dynamic.
They got their deserved equalizer in the 77th minute when a lucky break allowed Morgan to slot home. A hopeful ball into the Sweden box ended up striking a Swedish defender in the face, working as the perfect layoff to Morgan who duly obliged.
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) August 12, 2016
The USA pushed for a winner but some desperate defending from Sweden saw the match end level at 1-1 after 90 minutes.
The first half of extra time was a cautious affair, Rapinoe being substituted in the 99th minute having only just returned from a serious knee injury.
The second half of extra time was a back and forth escapade full of controversy and close calls. First, the USA saw a goal disallowed for what appeared to be an incorrect offside decision, although Carli Lloyd was also guilty of a slight push before finishing the chance.
At the other end, Sweden had a goal called off for offside that clearly wasn’t — it was a terrible decision from the lineswoman.
From there, penalties became the most likely outcome — an unfortunate decider for an enthralling match.
With Solo and the USA’s lineup of goal scorers, you’d have put money on them prevailing. It wasn’t to be.
Press and Morgan were unable to convert, while Sweden displayed exemplary composure in putting four past Solo.
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