Reigning champions USA are out of the Women’s World Cup after a nerve-shredding shootout loss to Sweden.
Sweden 0-0 USA (5-4 PSO) | Round of 16
Holders USA will return home without a FIFA Women’s World Cup medal for the first time in their history after losing on penalties to Sweden in an unforgettable last-16 tie in Melbourne. Lina Hurtig squeezed home the winning spot-kick, albeit only just, after Zecira Musovic had been the Swedes’ heroine in the 120 preceding minutes.
Although it wasn’t laden with goals and attacking inspiration, this much-anticipated match produced fascinating, full-blooded fare from the opening minutes until that dramatic last kick.
The first half belonged entirely to the US, with Trinity Rodman’s elusive, incisive wing play the most effective offensive weapon on either side. Twice inside eight minutes the youngster showed pace and skill to burst away from her marker, each time firing in a right-foot shot that stung the palms of Musovic.
Sweden’s goalkeeper was exceptional throughout, and her team were once again indebted to her early in the second period when Lindsey Horan – who had earlier rattled the bar with a header – went for goal again. The US captain could not have struck her first-time right-foot effort any more sweetly but, just as the ball looked set to nestle in the bottom corner, Musovic stuck out her left hand to divert it wide.
American fans would have been wondering by this stage if this simply wasn’t to be their night, and that sense of foreboding only increased when Musovic produced another superb save to keep out a late Alex Morgan header. Holders’ hearts were also in mouths when, with five minutes of the 90 remaining, Stina Blackstenius cut inside and forced Alyssa Naeher into her first save of the match – and, remarkably, the entire tournament. Extra time brought more Musovic magic, with the Sweden keeper thwarting Morgan, Lynn Williams and Sophia Smith as tension continued to build.
Penalties were required to settle the impasse, and while the US again seemed to be in control of the shootout, crucial misses from Megan Rapinoe, Smith and, finally, Kelley O’Hara left Hurtig with the chance to make history. The substitute’s spot-kick initially looked to have been saved by Naeher but, after an agonising few seconds in which the entire stadium held its breath, the ball was shown to have crossed the line. Sweden celebrated wildly and can now look forward to a quarter-final against the in-form Japanese at Auckland’s Eden Park.
This was USA’s first Women’s World Cup defeat – excluding penalty shootouts – since Sweden themselves beat the Americans in 2011… 4414 days ago!
Photo Courtesy: FIFA