Tokyo — Sweden did not lose its life this time in defense against the Americans.
Stina Blakstenius scored two goals as Sweden stunned the United States at the Olympics with a 3-0 win on Wednesday in the women’s football tournament.
The favorite Americans rode a 44-match unbeaten streak in the match to win the world No. 1 rank and gold in Tokyo. But Sweden, at No. 5, has been a nemesis of the US team in recent years. The Swedes leapfrogged the Americans from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarterfinals, taking a defensive stance and being the first to pull out of the US Olympics.
This April, Sweden played a 1-1 draw to the United States in Stockholm, breaking the winning streak in January 2019 when the Americans lost to France for the World Cup. It was the US team’s only draw this year.
“Did we expect this result tonight? No,” said US forward Megan Rapinoe, who didn’t start but came on as a substitute in the 64th minute with a score of 2-0. “It’s disappointing, And it’s disappointing that this is Sweden. He found a lot of space on us. I don’t even know how many goals we have left this whole year. I can’t remember the last time we dropped a goal. So giving up on three is not great.”
All credit goes to Sweden’s crime. Blackstenius’s header in the far corner from a cross from Sofia Jacobson in the 26th minute gave the team the first-half lead.
The United States, which had gone stale, had their best chance of the opening half in the final moments when Rose LaValle’s shot hit the post. Coach Wlatko Andonovsky made changes for the second half, adding Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz for Sam Mavis.
But Blackstenius scored again in the 54th minute to beat goalkeeper Alyssa Naher, as the Americans continued to struggle. Lena Hurtig added the final goal in the 72nd.
Sweden’s goalkeeper Hedwig Lindahl admitted that the victory over the favourites was encouraging, but it is still the start of the tournament. Next up are group games against Australia and New Zealand.
“I know for a fact that you can go very far in a tournament, even if you lost to USA or whoever in the first game,” Lindahl said. “So in the end I don’t know how much that means, but of course we showed the world and ourselves that we can play well against a team like America or any team.”
It was the first defeat for the United States under Andonowski, who took over after former coach Jill Ellis stepped down after the team’s World Cup victory in France. At the end of the match, Andonovsky sat motionless on the bench.
The Swedes were without Magda Ericsson due to injury. The team said it was training, but was ruled out of the opener due to the tournament’s compact schedule.
Tokyo is Sweden’s seventh Olympics. After Sweden’s penalty exit in the quarterfinals five years ago, American goalkeeper Hope Solo called the Swedish cowards famous for their defensive tactics.
Sweden won the silver medal, losing 2–1 to Germany in the final.
The United States has been in all seven Olympics, including in women’s football, winning four Olympic gold medals, more than any other nation. The team is vying to become the first player after the World Cup title to win an Olympic gold.
In 2008, the United States also lost their first match 2–0 to Norway, but won the gold medal.
“I think as an athlete you eventually go through ups and downs, and it’s a tough outcome, but that’s the nature of a tough tournament,” US forward Kristen Press said. “It wasn’t going to be easy. We weren’t going to wind up in six games, no matter what. So here we are.”
It was just the sixth time the United States had lost by three or more goals.
Sweden now lead Group G against Australia on Saturday in Saitama, while the United States face New Zealand at the same stadium. The top two teams in the group advance to the knockout rounds.
“That’s it,” said Rapinoe. “We lost, and we have two more games coming quicker and faster. And now we know exactly what we need to do. We have to win these games and get out of the group at the end ”