USWNT suffers shocking exit from Women’s World Cup after losing to Sweden on penalties

The US women’s national soccer team, the reigning world champions and favorites to win the 2023 Women’s World Cup, were eliminated in the round of 16 by Sweden on Sunday, following a scoreless draw and a dramatic penalty shootout.

Women’s World Cup

Sweden ends USWNT’s dream of a third consecutive World Cup title

The USWNT, who had won the previous two editions of the tournament in 2015 and 2019, were hoping to become the first team to win three consecutive World Cups in women’s soccer history. However, they faced a tough challenge from Sweden, who had knocked them out of the 2016 Olympics in the quarterfinals, also on penalties.

The match was a tense and tight affair, with both teams creating few clear chances and defending well. The USWNT had more possession and shots, but Sweden had the best opportunity of the game in the 77th minute, when Stina Blackstenius hit the post with a header from close range.

Neither team could break the deadlock in 90 minutes, nor in the 30 minutes of extra time, forcing the game to be decided by a penalty shootout.

Naeher’s heroics not enough to save USWNT from penalty heartbreak

The penalty shootout was a roller-coaster ride of emotions for both teams and their fans. The USWNT started poorly, as Megan Rapinoe’s first kick was saved by Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. However, USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher responded by saving Sweden’s second kick from Kosovare Asllani.

The shootout continued with both teams scoring their next three kicks, leaving the score at 3-3 after five rounds. The USWNT had a chance to take the lead in the sixth round, but Sophia Smith’s shot was also stopped by Lindahl. Sweden then took advantage of their opportunity, as Hanna Glas scored to put them ahead.

The pressure was on the USWNT to score their seventh kick and stay alive in the shootout. Kelley O’Hara stepped up to take it, but her shot hit the crossbar and bounced out. The USWNT players looked devastated, as they realized their World Cup dream was over.

However, there was one more twist in the tale. The referee consulted with the video assistant referee (VAR) and ruled that Lindahl had moved off her line before O’Hara’s kick, which is against the rules. The kick was ordered to be retaken, giving the USWNT a lifeline.

O’Hara took the kick again, this time scoring past Lindahl. The USWNT players celebrated, as they thought they had equalized and forced another round of penalties. However, their joy was short-lived, as the referee checked with VAR again and confirmed that Sweden’s seventh kick, taken by Lina Hurtig, had crossed the line by millimeters after being initially saved by Naeher.

The referee signaled that Sweden had won the shootout 5-4, sending them into ecstasy and the USWNT into despair. The Swedish players rushed to celebrate with Lindahl and Hurtig, while the USWNT players consoled each other and Naeher.

USWNT coach Andonovski praises players despite historic loss

The loss was a historic one for the USWNT, who had never been eliminated before the semifinals of a major tournament. It was also their first loss in a World Cup match since 2011, when they lost to Japan in the final.

USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski, who took over from Jill Ellis after she led the team to two World Cup titles, praised his players for their effort and spirit despite the loss.

“I’m proud of this group,” Andonovski said in his post-match press conference. “They gave everything they had. They fought hard. They played hard. They played some good soccer along the way. Unfortunately, we came up short.”

Andonovski also said he could not see how Hurtig’s kick had crossed the line from his angle, but accepted the referee’s decision.

“It’s a tough moment,” he said. “It’s a moment that’s hard to go through. Until the last whistle is blown, you have hopes that the ball didn’t cross the line but from what I understand now, obviously the referee called that it did. I see pictures and I still can’t see how.”

Andonovski declined to comment on his future with the program or any possible changes to his squad.

“I think it’s selfish to think about me, my future, what I’m going to do, when we have 20-year-old players going through this situation,” he said.

Sweden advances to quarterfinals to face Germany

Sweden, meanwhile, celebrated their victory over their arch-rivals and advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the fourth time in their history. They will face Germany on Thursday, August 10, in a rematch of the 2003 World Cup final, which Germany won 2-1.

Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson said he was proud of his team for beating the USWNT and reaching the last eight of the tournament.

“We have reasonable respect for every team that we play, but we know that we can win this game, and that’s the feeling that permeates through us right now,” Gerhardsson said.

Sweden captain Caroline Seger, who scored the fourth penalty for her team, said it was a “dream come true” to beat the USWNT and move on to the next round.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Seger said. “We’ve been working so hard for this. We’ve been dreaming about this. We knew we had a chance to beat them and we did it.”

Category: Sports

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