The U.S. women's national team put the finishing touches on a perfect run through its group at the 2019 Women's World Cup, beating familiar foe Sweden 2-0 in Le Havre, France, on Thursday to secure first place in Group F. Lindsey Horan scored early, and an own goal off a Tobin Heath shot early in the second half sealed it. In the process, the U.S. set a record for most goals ever scored in a Women's World Cup group stage with 18, breaking Norway's record that stood since 1995.
Both teams were sitting on six points after respective wins over Thailand and Chile, setting the stage for the group-deciding match–one that Sweden approached with a rather experimental and reserve-heavy lineup. There was arguably an advantage for the loser, with host France looming as a potential quarterfinal opponent in the bracket for the winner, but either way, a tough road awaits in what is widely considered to be the deepest Women's World Cup field ever. The USA's road will include a match vs. Spain in the round of 16 on Monday, while Sweden will meet Canada in the first knockout game.
The U.S. was slightly shorthanded for the match, with Julie Ertz ruled out due to a minor hip injury. U.S. Soccer characterized her absence as "precautionary." Sam Mewis took her place in the lineup–and thrived in a full-throttle first half–which otherwise mirrored that of the opening 13-0 win over Thailand.
The USA looked to strike early, with the chance emanating from Heath deep in the Sweden box. Her cross to the back post was just a bit too high for Megan Rapinoe, though the veteran winger was able to earn a corner kick. And off that corner kick, the USA scored. Rapinoe's low service was flicked on by Mewis with the back of her heel, and Horan was there to fire home at the goal mouth and make it 1-0 less than three minutes in.
The USA maintained its attacking pressure during a very high-tempo first quarter hour, with Crystal Dunn surging forward from her left back position to fire two shots that didn't find the mark, while Mewis tested goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl from distance as well.
Sweden's first threat came 15 minutes in on a speculative long-range chance from Stina Blackstenius, one that was collected rather easily by U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
Sweden enjoyed a better chance five mintues later. Sofia Jacobsson broke forward on a counterattack and patiently waited for Kosovare Asllani to make her overlapping run. She found her on the right, and Asllani fired away, with Naeher getting down to make the low save.
Naeher was tested again with one of the final kicks of the half, as Jacobsson whipped in a dangerous cross from the right, trying to pick out a teammate, but the U.S. goalkeeper flew to her right to swat it to safety and ensure the U.S. went into the break with the lead.
The USA doubled that lead a few minutes into the second half. Rapinoe whipped in a cross from the left that was deflected into Heath's path by Swedish defender Linda Sembrant. The U.S. winger powered home a shot from a tight angle to make it 2-0–only after it was confirmed by video review. Carli Lloyd, who entered at halftime for Alex Morgan, was offside during the sequence and appeared to be an active part of the play, yet the officials allowed the goal to stand, and FIFA officials later changed it to an own goal on Jonna Andersson, with Heath's shot evidently taking a nick off the top of her foot before finding the back of the net.
The USA nearly made it 3-0 in the match's final minutes, with Lloyd getting in behind, but she was robbed by a sliding Lindahl, who made the save and prevented her from scoring in a seventh straight World Cup match.
Here were the lineups for the match:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
GOALKEEPERS: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
DEFENDERS: Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars); Crystal Dunn (NC Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O'Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns)
MIDFIELDERS: Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Allie Long (Seattle Reign), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage)
FORWARDS: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns); Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign)
GOALKEEPERS: Hedvig Lindahl (Chelsea), Jennifer Falk (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC), Zecira Musovic (FC Rosengard)
DEFENDERS: Jonna Andersson (Chelsea), Linda Sembrant (Montpellier HSC), Hanna Glas (Paris Saint-Germain), Nilla Fischer (VfL Wolfsburg), Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea), Amanda Ilestedt (Turbine Potsdam), Nathalie Bjorn (FC Rosengard)
MIDFIELDERS: Madelen Janogy (Piteå IF), Kosovare Asllani (Linköpings FC), Julia Roddar (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC), Julia Zigiotti (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC), Caroline Seger (FC Rosengard), Olivia Schough (Djurgårdens IF DFF), Elin Rubensson (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC)
FORWARDS: Lina Hurtig (Linköpings FC), Sofia Jakobsson (Montpellier HSC), Stina Blackstenius (Linköpings FC), Fridolina Rolfo (FC Bayern München), Anna Anvegard (Växjö DFF), Mimmi Larsson (Linköpings FC)