The U.S. women soccer players had not forgotten the way Sweden eliminated them at the Rio Games in 2016.
For five years, the Americans laid in wait quietly hoping to see the Swedes in another Olympics.
For five years, the top-ranked Americans dominated world play since losing on penalty kicks in Rio in the quarterfinals.
Then came the dramatic opening match of the Tokyo Games where the Americans’ 44-game unbeaten streak disappeared into the humid air
In a 3-0 drubbing rarely experienced by the storied U.S. women’s program, Sweden employed an astute game plan with seasoned and strong players who left the United States in a state of shock for almost 90 minutes.
The result signals the potential for a seachange in international soccer as American invincibility shattered like a broken window.
“I don’t think this team expects to lose a game to begin with but not to lose 3-0,” said Vlatko Andonovski, who lost for the first time as U.S. coach.
The Americans are trying to win their fifth gold medal since women’s soccer was added to the Olympics in 1996. The only time they did not earn a medal was in 2016.
The team rebounded from that defeat to win the 2019 Women’s World Cup that included defeating Sweden 2-0 in group play.
United States’ Tobin Heath reacts after losing 0-3 against Sweden during a women’s soccer match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
So, few could have predicted how much Sweden would force the Americans into a role of desperately chasing a superior team, always a step too slow.
This was not the defense-minded team of 2016 that the former goalkeeper Hope Solo had called cowards.
Sweden pushed forward at every opportunity, often jetting past heavy-legged U.S. midfielders.
Andonovski sent on veterans Julie Ertz, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe in the second half to inject life into a listless team. But not even the three star veterans could reboot the system.
“We have so many players that can do good stuff and as a team we are very good,” said Stina Blackstinius, who scored twice. “Every player is very happy about going very attacking.”
The defeat marked some ignoble milestones for the United States: It was the Americans’ worst defeat in Olympic history and their worst loss since a 4-0 thrashing to Brazil at the 2007 Women’s World Cup.
Blackstinius got the brace in the 55th minute in a score that stripped away any thoughts of an American comeback. She scored on sloppy defending after a corner kick found Amanda Ilestedt in the mix.
Ilestedt’s header hit the far post and took a friendly bounce to Blackstinius, who used her left foot to flick it over U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for a 2-0 lead.
Lina Hurtig made it 3-0 in the 72nd minute when heading in a ball past Neaher while splitting two defenders just inside the six-yard box. She got a wonderful serve from an unmarked Hanna Glas on the right where the Swedes worked much of their magic.
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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment