This wasn’t what was supposed to happen; not the way it was supposed to be. The opening soccer game of the Tokyo Olympics for the USWNT didn’t go as planned. The team from Sweden shut out the American women by a score of 3-0. As one of my 18-year-old daughters–a soccer player herself–asked when she saw the text I sent her in the wee hours of the morning, “Wait, we lost?”
Yes, we did. After 44 straight wins, the unbelievable happened. Something we’re unaccustomed to seeing. We are conditioned to believe that this group of amazing women is infallible.
As forward Megan Rapinoe said after the game, “We got our asses kicked, didn’t we?”
What it ultimately came down to is that most of the US women had a game where they just didn’t get into their groove. Because of this, the team could not gel and cohesively battle the Swedes.
USWNT vs Sweden History
In recent years, the Swedes have been a consistent thorn-in-the-side to the Americans. The Swedish team defeated the defending gold-medal winning US team in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics, with the game being decided on penalty kicks.
In April of this year, the teams met in a friendly game. Just before the half, Sweden’s Lina Hurtig scored a goal. Rapinoe kicked a penalty shot that went in the net during the 87th minute. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. This prevented the undefeated streak of the USWNT from ending.
When the US drew Sweden as their first game of the Tokyo Olympics, it was thought to be the epitome of a grudge match. However, it became obvious that the way the Swedes were playing was unexpected. It also appeared to get into the heads of the US players, which caused them to push and become more desperate and frantic.
In the second half, the US finally settled down and adjusted their play. There did not appear to be overall systemic failures, however. Instead, there were a series of lackluster individual performances Even so, this game seems to have served the purpose of a gut-wrenching reality check, coming at a time in the tournament when the loss can be overcome.
How the Olympic Tournament Works
Group Stage/Round Robin Play
- 3 groups of 4 teams
- All teams play each team in group
- At the end of groups stage, top 2 in each group and the 2 highest ranked 3rd place teams overall go on to quarterfinals
Point System (per FIFA)
- Points are assigned to teams to determine who advances
- Win–3 points
- Draw–1 point
- Lose–0 points
- Largest goal difference in all group matches
- Greatest # of goals scored in all group matches
- Greatest # of points obtained in matches played between the teams concerned
- Largest goal differential in matches played between teams concerned
- Greatest # goals scored in matches between teams concerned
- Highest team conduct score in all group matches (points deducted for yellow and red cards)
- Only first 2 criteria and the fair play points are used to breathe tie between the highest-ranking 3rd place teams who haven’t faced each other in tourney play
- Single elimination
- 4 teams move to semifinals
- 4 teams play
- 2 losers play for Bronze Medal
- 2 winners play for Gold Medals
- Winners Bronze Medal Game receives the Bronze Medal
- Loser of Gold Medal Game receives Silver Medal
- Winner of Gold Medal Game receives Gold Medal
* It is important for the teams not just to win games in the group stage, but also for the winning teams to maintain as wide a margin of victory as possible.
USWNT: Road Forward
Group G Schedule
Wednesday 7/21 Sweden 3, USA 0
Wednesday 7/21 Australia 2, New Zealand 1
Saturday 7/24 Sweden vs Australia; 3:30 am CST
Saturday 7/24 New Zealand vs USA; 6:30 am CST
Tuesday 7/27 New Zealand vs Sweden; 3 am CST
Tuesday 7/27 USA vs Australia; 3 am CST
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