The American female soccer player couldn’t forget the way Sweden eliminated her at the 2016 Rio Games.
For five years, the Americans waited quietly in hopes of seeing Sweden at another Olympics.
For five years since losing on penalty kicks in Rio in the quarterfinals, the top-ranked Americans dominated the world game.
Then came the dramatic opening match of the Tokyo Games where the Americans’ 44-game unbeaten streak vanished into moist air.
In a 3–0 drubbing rarely experienced by the storied American women’s program, Sweden employed a clever game plan with experienced and strong players who left the United States in a state of shock for nearly 90 minutes. .
The result signals the prospect of a sea change in international football as American invincibility shattered like a broken window.
“I don’t think this team is expected to lose a game at the start, but not to lose 3-0,” said Vlatko Andonovsky, who lost for the first time as US coach.
The Americans are trying to win their fifth gold medal since women’s football was added to the Olympics in 1996. The only time he didn’t earn a medal was in 2016.
The team bounced back from that defeat to win the 2019 Women’s World Cup, which included a 2–0 win over Sweden in group play.
Therefore, few could have predicted how much Sweden would force the Americans into the role of a better team chasing, always one step too slow.
It was not the defense-minded team of 2016 that former goalkeeper Hope Solo called a coward.
Sweden pushed ahead at every opportunity, often leaving behind heavy-legged American midfielders.
Andonowski sent veterans Julie Ertz, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe in the second half to bring life to an unlisted team. But even the three star giants could not reboot the system.
“We have a lot of players who can do well and we are very good as a team,” said two-time goalscorer Stina Blackstinius. “Every player is very happy to be very aggressive.”
The defeat marked some important milestones for the United States: it was the Americans’ worst defeat in Olympic history and their 4–0 loss to Brazil at the 2007 Women’s World Cup.
Blackstinius scored in the 55th minute, leaving the Americans with no idea of a comeback. She scored on a sloppy defense after Amanda Elstad got a corner kick into the mix.
Elstad’s header hit the far post and a friendly bounce for Blackstinius, who used her left foot to take a 2-0 lead over American goalkeeper Alyssa Nahar.
Lena Hertig took a 3-0 lead in the 72nd minute when she headed a ball past Nehar, while the two defenders split inside the six-yard box. She received an amazing service from an unmarked henna glass to the right, where the Swedes worked their magic.
“Do we expect this result?” Redding’s Rapinoe said at a news conference. “No, it’s hopeless, and hopeless it’s Sweden.”
Before the game, the Americans were allowed four goals this year. Sweden could have scored four times in this game, missing some chances in the first half.
The Swede, wearing his yellow jersey, checked the right side, where American fullback Krystal Dunn gave extra time to thwart the attacking waves.
But it was never going to be enough. Sofia Jacobson takes a wide to the right in the 25th minute. He had time to take out Blackstenius in front of the net, although Menlo Park’s Abbey Dahlkemper defended him well.
“It felt like there were holes everywhere defensively,” said former Cal star Alex Morgan. “We didn’t have the numbers around the ball to win it back.”
The United States’ last defeat in all competitions came in a 3–1 loss against France on 19 January 2019.
“In the end I don’t know how much it means, but of course we showed the world and ourselves that we can play well against a team like America or any team,” Swedish goalkeeper Hedwig Lindahl told a news conference.
The Swedes played without defender Magda Eriksson due to injury. But he was not needed in a team that played aggressively and won most of the deliveries. The flurry of the yellow jersey disappointed the US midfield as the Americans had few opportunities to face serious scoring threats.
“We were gutted, and we have two more games coming sooner and faster,” Rapinoe said. “And now we know exactly what to do.”
Group G play against New Zealand continues on Saturday with the United States in Saitama. The Americans ended the group on Tuesday against No. 9 Australia.