There will be a new Women’s World Cup champion crowned as the United States women’s national team crashed out of the tournament by mere millimeters in a penalty shootout against Sweden at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Australia on Sunday.
U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski had to make changes to his lineup as Rose Lavelle was suspended for the game due to an accumulation of cards in the group stage. Thus, he elected to go for a double pivot, with Emily Sonnet and Andi Sullivan playing behind the attacking players in defensive midfielder roles.
There was some improvement for the Americans in this game compared to the group stage. However, they still were unable to find the goals to put the game away.
Sweden will have to thank their goalkeeper Zecira Musovic for saving their skin as she made several key saves to keep the game scoreless throughout the 120 minutes of action.
Trinity Rodman had a good chance to open the scoring in the 18th minute when took a crack at goal from the edge of the area, but Musovic was able to make the stop. Lindsey Horan then had the best chance of the first half in the 34th minute when Sullivan’s corner kick found her in the middle of the box. Unfortunately, the captain’s header came crashing off the frame.
It was much of the same in the second half as the U.S. dominated Sweden, but still couldn’t find the back of the net.
Horan had another great chance to get on the scoreboard in the 53rd minute when Emily Fox‘s low cross found her in the left side of the box. She sent a powerful shot toward the goal, but Musovic was able to reach it and parry it out for a corner kick.
Sweden, which did not look good for long stretches of the game, finally got a shot on target in the 85th minute when Sofia Jakobsen beat Crystal Dunn in a one-on-one situation to fire a shot at goal. However, U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naher was on the spot to block the attempt.
Lynn Williams, who came on for Rodman in the 66th minute, set up Alex Morgan for an excellent opportunity to steal the game in the final minutes. Her cross from the right side found the forward to head on target, but once again, Musovic pulled off the reaction save to keep the score level.
If regulation was frustrating for the American women, then extra time made it even worse as they still could find no way to get the ball past Musovic. This game then went to penalties.
Both sides went back and forth converting their spot-kicks until the third kick when Sweden’s Nathalie Bjorn sent her kick flying over the bar. This gave the U.S. the advantage to close out the game, but Megan Rapinoe followed Bjorn and sent her shot over the bar.
Sweden then had a chance to level the score through Rebecka Blomqvist, but Naeher guessed right as she made the save to keep the advantage for her team. Sophia Smith, who was playing in her first World Cup, came up next to try and win it, but her attempt went wide of the mark. Hanna Bennison then came up to level the score.
Both sides exchanged penalties again before Kelly O’Hara stepped up to take her chance. She sent Musovic the wrong way, but her goal was denied by the post, giving Sweden the chance to end the game once and for all.
Lina Hurtig put her shot to the right of Naeher, who thought she had made the save to keep things going. However, after a review from the video assistant referee, replays showed the ball had just crossed over the goal line to give Sweden the shock win.
With the U.S. crashing out of the tournament, many questions will arise about the future of this team as there will most likely be changes ahead of their next major tournament.