The USWNT failed to medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. After getting through group play, the Americans ran into Sweden, which beat them in penalties in the first match of the knockout round. A chance for redemption presented itself on Wednesday, when the two sides kicked off group play in Tokyo, but once again, the Swedes picked up a win.
This time, it was an emphatic 3-0 victory for Sweden, which snapped the USWNT’s 44-match winning streak and handed them their first loss since France beat them in a friendly in 2019. Forward Stina Blackstenius started the scoring in the 25th minute by burying a stellar cross from Sofia Jakobsson, which marked all of the scoring in the game’s first 45, although Rose Lavelle hit the post for the Americans just before heading into the locker room.
But instead of that chance shaking the Swedes, Blackstenius struck again less than 10 minutes into the second half. A headed effort on a corner by Amanda Ilestedt beat American keeper Alyssa Naeher but could not beat the post. By the time it landed to Blackstenius, she was totally unmarked, and while Naeher tried to challenge her, it was all for naught.
The moment where it perhaps became evident for the U.S. that it was not their day came in the 71st minute, when Megan Rapinoe threaded a pass to Christen Press, who was totally unmarked at the edge of the 6-yard box and had a completely open net. She couldn’t quite get her feet right, causing the ball to come off her feet awkwardly and hit the post, and a little more than 90 seconds later, Lina Hurtig, who came in for Blackstenius, sealed things with a header that found the back of the net.
While the Swedes are the No. 5 team in the world, the Americans were viewed as the clear-cut favorites to win this result. Now, they’re facing a major uphill battle to even win their group. They’ll need to beat both New Zealand (July 24) and Australia (July 27) emphatically, then hope one of them beats Sweden, then hope the goal differential in group play is so stark that they can secure the top spot. More likely, they’ll finish in second place and have a slightly different path to the Final — if they make it, of course — than originally planned.