Sweden stuns USA in Women’s World Cup shootout thriller

Sweden pulled off a stunning upset over the defending champions USA in the round of 16 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, winning 5-4 on penalties after a goalless draw in regulation and extra time. The match was decided by a dramatic VAR intervention that confirmed Lina Hurtig’s spot kick had crossed the line by a fraction of a centimeter, sending the Swedes into ecstasy and the Americans into despair.

Women’s World Cup
Women’s World Cup

USA dominates but fails to score

The USA had entered the knockout stage as the favorites to win their third consecutive World Cup title, but they faced a tough challenge from Sweden, who had finished second in Group F behind Japan. The Americans dominated the possession and created numerous chances, but they were denied by the woodwork and the heroics of Sweden’s goalkeeper Zecira Musovic.

In the first half, Lindsey Horan hit the crossbar with a powerful header from a corner, and Alex Morgan forced Musovic to make a diving save with a low shot. In the second half, Musovic made another spectacular stop to keep out a volley from Christen Press, and Morgan hit the post with a header from close range.

The USA also had a penalty appeal turned down by the referee in the 72nd minute, when Morgan went down under a challenge from Amanda Ilestedt in the box. The VAR checked the incident but did not overturn the decision, much to the frustration of the Americans.

Sweden holds on and prevails in shootout

Sweden had few opportunities to threaten the USA’s goal, but they defended resolutely and frustrated their opponents with their physical and tactical discipline. The Swedes also had some luck on their side, as they survived a couple of close calls in their own penalty area.

In the 88th minute, Tobin Heath’s cross from the right was deflected by Nilla Fischer and almost looped over Musovic, who managed to tip it over the bar. In injury time, Julie Ertz’s header from a corner was cleared off the line by Magdalena Eriksson.

The match went into extra time, where both teams looked tired and unable to break the deadlock. The USA had one last chance in the 120th minute, when Megan Rapinoe’s free kick from the edge of the box was parried by Musovic.

The game then went to penalties, where both teams scored their first four kicks. Rapinoe, who had come on as a substitute in extra time, stepped up to take the fifth penalty for the USA, but she sent it wide of the left post. Hurtig then took the decisive kick for Sweden, which was initially saved by Alyssa Naeher, but the VAR showed that the ball had crossed the line by a hair’s breadth. The referee awarded the goal and confirmed Sweden’s victory, sparking wild celebrations among the players and fans.

Sweden advances to quarterfinals, USA crashes out

Sweden’s win was their first over the USA in a World Cup knockout match, and their second in a major tournament after their victory in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics. The Swedes will now face Japan, who cruised into the last eight with a 3-1 win over Norway earlier on Sunday.

The USA’s loss was their first in a World Cup knockout match since 2011, when they lost to Japan in the final on penalties. It was also their earliest exit from a World Cup since 1995, when they lost to Norway in the semifinals. The Americans had won four of the previous eight editions of the tournament, and were aiming to become the first team to win three consecutive titles.

The USA’s coach Vlatko Andonovski said he was devastated for his team and praised their performance. He said they played beautiful football and showed grit and resilience, but soccer can be cruel sometimes. He also defended Rapinoe’s miss, calling her a legend.

The USA’s captain Lindsey Horan said she was proud of her team and their effort. She said they dominated the game but did not score, and penalties suck. She also congratulated Sweden for their win and wished them luck for the rest of the tournament.

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