The U.S. women's national team's quest for a fifth Olympic gold medal is off to a shocking start—and not in a positive way.
Stina Blackstenius's two goals and Lina Hurtig's second-half insurance header lifted Sweden to a comprehensive 3–0 win over the U.S. in Tokyo, where the reigning Women's World Cup champions were on the back foot consistently and saw their 44-match unbeaten streak come to an end.
Sweden, which eliminated the U.S. from the 2016 Olympics in Brazil in the quarterfinals, came out aggressively and pressed incessantly to unsettle the U.S. After a series of corner kicks and Alyssa Naeher saves, Sweden broke through via Blackstenius, who glanced her header in off a cross from Sofia Jakobsson in the 25th minute. It was Blackstenius who scored against the U.S. in those 2016 Games as part of a 1–1 draw that was settled by penalties.
Rose Lavelle managed to hit the post with a header just before halftime after a pinpoint delivery out of the back from Kelley O'Hara, but that was as close the U.S. got to scoring in the opening half. In all, Sweden outshot the U.S. 10–3 (6–1 shots on goal) and had seven corner kicks to the U.S.'s one in the first 45 minutes.
Sweden doubled its lead in the 54th minute, with Blackstenius scoring her second. A header off a corner kick came off the post, but the forward was left unmarked by that same post and calmly beat Naeher from close range, with a VAR review upholding the goal and showing she was not offside.
The U.S. had a couple of chances to pull one back. Carli Lloyd, on as a halftime substitute along with Julie Ertz (replacing Alex Morgan and Sam Mewis), got free down the right and was picked out by Lavelle. Her low, curling attempt in the 61st minute was deflected and put out for a corner, though.
After another substitute, Megan Rapinoe, had come on, Christen Press hit the post with her 70th-minute chance off Rapinoe's cross.
Things swung dramatically back in Sweden's favor a couple of minutes later. Hurtig, who scored against the U.S. in April, headed home the Swedes' third off a cross from Hanna Glas, making it 3–0 and effectively ending the match.
Press was denied a consolation goal by Hedvig Lindahl in second-half stoppage time, with the Swedish goalkeeper making a fantastic save on a point-blank header.
The loss is the U.S.'s first under manager Vlatko Andonovski, and it's the first overall since a 3–1 friendly defeat to France on Jan. 19, 2019.
Sweden had come as close as anyone to snapping that streak in April, tying the U.S. 1–1 after a late penalty gave Megan Rapinoe the chance to secure the draw.
The U.S. will face New Zealand on July 24 and Australia on July 27 to wrap up group play in Japan. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout stage, while the top two third-place sides also go through, so the defeat is not completely debilitating, especially if the U.S. bounces back to win its next two games, but it's clearly not the start Andonovski had in mind for his squad full of veteran, championship-caliber talent.
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