Facing their first real World Cup test in rival Sweden, the United States women’s soccer team still breezed into the knockout stage with a 2-0 win over the country that ended their Olympic run in Rio de Janeiro three years earlier.
With the win in the Group F finale, the U.S. (3-0) moves on to play Spain in the round of 16 ahead of what could be a highly-anticpated quarterfinals matchup with the home country, France.
Thursday’s scoring began on corner from U.S. captain Megan Rapinoe that managed to find the right foot of teammate Lindsey Horan in the third minute. The 25-year-old midfielder easily knocked it in for the 1-0 advantage.
Rapinoe’s kick was actually a low dribbler, but it still made its way through Swedish defenders to the far side of the net, where Horan was waiting to score her second goal of the tournament.
Forward Tobin Heath gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead shortly after halftime when she took a cross from Rapinoe and lifted a shot over Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl’s head towards the far post.
The goal was then upheld by review, although it was later ruled to be an own goal on Sweden’s Jonna Andersson.
Forward Tobin Heath gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead shortly after halftime when she took a cross from Rapinoe and lifted a shot over Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl’s head towards the far post
A corner from Megan Rapinoe managed to find the right foot of teammate Lindsey Horan in the third minute, and the 25-year-old midfielder easily knocked it in for the 1-0 advantage
Lindsey Horan celebrates with captain Megan Rapinoe (right) after scoring a goal in the third minute of Thursday’s Group F finale at the World Cup in France
Sweden packed the box in the third minute to defend against the corner kick, but Megan Rapinoe still managed to find Lindsey Horan for an early 1-0 lead
Tobin Heath of the USA celebrates after scoring her team’s second goal during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France group F match between Sweden and the U.S.
The United States was criticized for its elaborate goal celebrations in the 13-0 blowout win over Thailand in the World Cup opener.
Veteran forward Carli Lloyd poked fun at the criticism in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Chile by giving a sarcastic golf clap after one of her two goals on the day.
On Thursday, the American celebrations were less theatrical, but Heath still ran over to the sidelines to slap some fives with teammates on the bench after scoring her beautiful goal.
Both teams came into Thursday’s match with a pair of wins, and both have clinched berths in the round of 16. Ninth-ranked Sweden opened with a 2-0 victory over Chile and followed with a 5-1 win over Thailand.
Alex Morgan got the start for the U.S. Thursday after coming off the bench in the opener against Thailand last week
The top-ranked Americans have the better goal difference and with a win or draw they would play Spain in the round of 16. That could set up a quarterfinal clash against No. 4 France in Paris, and then a meeting No. 3 England in the semifinals.
The team that finishes second in the group meets the Netherlands or Canada in the round of 16 and then could have a quarterfinal against No. 2 Germany, which would not have the home-country advantage that France’s fans bring to each match.
Julie Ertz was not in the lineup for the U.S. because of a hip contusion.
The defensive midfielder started and scored her first World Cup goal in the team’s 3-0 victory over Chile on Sunday. U.S. Soccer did not reveal how or when she was injured.
Ertz also started in the team’s tournament-opening 13-0 victory over Thailand, falling back to the defensive line because center back Becky Sauerbrunn sat out with a minor injury.
Ertz was one of just four players who started in both U.S. games.
United States soccer fans enjoy the pre-match atmosphere before the Group F finale
Swedish soccer fans gather at Stade Oceane ahead of Thursday’s match against the U.S.
American fans wave flags in the minutes before the Group F finale against Sweden
Three years ago at the Rio Olympics, the Swedes got to the Americans in the quarterfinals by bunkering in on defense to thwart the normally powerful U.S. attack. After a 1-1 draw, Sweden prevailed on penalties and handed the United States its earliest exit in the tournament.
Megan Rapinoe is challenged by Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson during the Group F finale
‘I don’t know what the U.S. feels for this game, but It’s the first time since the Olympics that we meet in this kind of setting, so I think they do want to put us in our place,’ said goalkeeper Hedvig Lindvahl. ‘That’s my feeling. At the same time you hear it communicated from the U.S. camp that they are going to play seven games in this tournament, so at the same time it doesn’t feel like they have all their focus on this game, to be honest.’
For Christen Press, who missed a penalty kick in that shootout, the Olympic loss to Sweden may have been the lowest point of her career.
It also serves as a motivator and defining moment for the American forward.
‘I think when I look back on my career, all the moments that I’m most proud of have come after failure,’ she said. ‘That’s the easiest one to point at and look at, and look at that clear failure, and then evaluate how I did in responding to it.
‘I think the strength that it takes to step back up and be courageous and let it go, and to continue to fight for your dreams and not let the outside noise affect what you’re doing, I am very proud of that.’
Sweden upset the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In this photo from that game, Kosovare Asllani of Sweden takes on Tobin Heath and Morgan Brian
Alex Morgan scored a record five times in the U.S. win over Thailand, but the Americans were criticized for over-celebrating each of their 13 goals on the day
Carli Lloyd, center, celebrates a goal in the 3-0 win over Chile with a sarcastic golf clap
The missed final penalty kick during that shootout eliminate the U.S. and a tearful Press was consoled by her teammates. It was the earliest Olympic exit for the Americans.
Press said she’s only watched pieces of that match. The Swedes – led then by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage – bunkered in on defense against the Americans.
Tied after three rounds in the shootout, Sweden captain Caroline Seger got past U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo before Press sailed the Americans’ fifth penalty kick over the crossbar. Lisa Dahlkvist wrong-footed Solo to give Sweden the 4-3 shootout victory.
Megan Rapinoe in action during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand
Solo infamously called the Swedes ‘a bunch of cowards’ after in alleging they played a defensive match to choke the Americans’ chances.
The rematch between the two teams is a highlight of four Thursday games in France, but the United States is not interested in dwelling on that defeat as it attempts to win a second consecutive Cup.
‘I think players and coaches are not focused on what was, we’re focused on what will be,’ coach Jill Ellis said. ‘That’s really where you have to be. You’ve got to look forward. That’s the past.’
Press played for clubs in Sweden for two years from 2012-14 and again in 2018 between stints in the National Women’s Soccer League. She came off the bench in the 13-0 rout of Thailand in the opener, but Press got the start as part of seven lineup changes for the 3-0 victory over Chile on Sunday.
The U.S. has played Sweden six times in the group stage at the World Cup, including a 0-0 draw four years ago in Canada. The only meeting since the Olympics was a 1-0 U.S. win in a 2017 friendly at Goteborg.
Press, playing in her second World Cup, admitted Thursday there might be a bit of revenge at play.
‘Despite the fact that it’s been three years, you don’t forget the taste in your mouth when you fail and when you lose in a world championship,’ Press said. ‘And I think there’s a little bit of that that will definitely act as motivation.’
However, other U.S. players insist the team’s aim in France is more than just revenge: They want a fourth title.
‘Going into this game we’re just focused on this new challenge. We’re not focused on past results,’ said defender Crystal Dunn.
The U.S. players look dejected after losing in the penalty shoot out during the Women’s Quarterfinal match between against Sweden on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games