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US loses to Sweden on penalty kicks in its earliest Women’s World Cup exit ever

by Joshua Brown
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In the most premature departure from the Women’s World Cup in their history, the U.S. women’s soccer team was defeated by Sweden in the round of 16, losing the penalty shootout 5-4. Despite playing their best game in the tournament, the reigning two-time champions were unable to prevent their elimination. After a 0-0 draw in regular and extra time, Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith, and Kelly O’Hara missed their penalties, allowing Lina Hurtig to score the winning kick for Sweden.

The U.S. was in control of the shootout before suffering the three consecutive misses. This marks the earliest the four-time World Cup winners have ever been knocked out of the competition.

In a tearful interview, Rapinoe referred to her own missed penalty as a “sick joke” and a “dark comedy,” lamenting the cruelty of the sport. Alyssa Naeher, the U.S. goalkeeper, contested Hurtig’s winning attempt but was overruled by VAR. Sweden’s victory was celebrated in the stadium with the song “Dancing Queen” by Abba, while the American players were left in tears.

Naeher expressed her pride in the team’s effort and commended Sweden’s goalkeeper, Zecira Musovic, who had 11 saves in the match. Julie Ertz was emotional about the loss and the prospect of it being her final game. U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski praised his team’s grit and resilience but acknowledged the sometimes cruel nature of soccer.

The match marked the fourth time the U.S. has gone to extra time at the World Cup. Previous matches resulted in penalties, with different outcomes. Sweden previously eliminated the U.S. from the 2016 Olympics in the quarterfinals.

Sweden now advances to the quarterfinals to play Japan, a team that defeated Norway 3-1. Though Sweden has never won a major global tournament, they’ve been close with a runner-up position in the World Cup in 2003 and silver medals in the last two Olympics.

The loss brings an end to Rapinoe’s international career, the Golden Boot winner of 2019 who plans to retire after the World Cup. Captain Alex Morgan expressed devastation at the outcome, recognizing the team’s domination but acknowledging the bitter end.

The Americans had struggled in group play, barely avoiding elimination. However, they looked far better against Sweden, outshooting them in the first half. Sweden, having won all three group games, rested starters to face the U.S. confidently.

Swedish midfielder Kosovare Asllani praised the U.S. team’s quality and predicted their return in future tournaments. The game was filled with tension from the start, with close chances on both sides.

Ultimately, Sweden pulled off the win, with their goalkeeper Musovic expressing pride in the team and confidence before the game. The victory against the U.S., a team seen as one of the strongest in women’s soccer, was a landmark moment for the Swedish side as they continue their journey in the World Cup.

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