U.S. Loses to Sweden 3-0 in Olympic Soccer Opener


Sweden celebrated after going up 2-0 in the second half. They scored another not long after.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

CHOFU, Japan — Five years they had waited for this game.

Five years since Sweden had dashed the United States women’s soccer team’s hopes for an Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games. Five years since a defeat that forced the Americans to look in the mirror and ask hard questions about their age, their dominance.

Five years of waiting, only to end up right back in the same place.

The United States opened the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday just as they had ended the Rio Games five years earlier: on the wrong end of a humbling, embarrassing defeat to Sweden. Then it was a loss on penalties in the quarterfinals; this time the result was much earlier and not nearly as close: Sweden 3, United States 0. But the sting and the statement baked into the defeat was just as real.

“It feels like a big deal,” defender Kelley O’Hara had said Tuesday of the rematch on Wednesday. “It feels like the Olympics. It’s what we’ve waited now five years for, to be back here.”

They just never expected it to end like this.

The defeat was the Americans’ first in 24 games under Coach Vlatko Andonovski, and their first against any opponent since a loss to France in January 2019. And it will force them to scramble to recover in the Olympic tournament. Games against New Zealand and Australia await in quick succession in the first round, and tougher opponents like Britain and the Netherlands could await in the medal round.

But first, the Americans will have to sort out just what went wrong at Tokyo Stadium.

Striker Stina Blackstenius delivered a goal in each half for Sweden on Wednesday, a glancing header in the 25th minute and a point-blank finish in the 54th that felt like a just reward for a dominant Sweden attack that had the Americans on their heels as early as the game’s opening minutes.

The United States, under pressure again and again, tried everything to turn the tide. Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz — in her first appearance in months — came on at halftime, and Megan Rapinoe entered the game about 20 minutes later. Even the departure — mercifully, in the Americans’ view — of Blackstenius in the 64th minute didn’t help; her replacement merely picked up where she left off by claiming an open header, and Sweden’s third goal, eight minutes later.

FULL TIME. Sweden notches a huge upset, 3-0, over the United States! The celebrations are low-key in this empty stadium. The Americans hang their heads for only a second before lining up to shake hands with the Swedes.

90′ Press with yet another chance. She makes a deep run straight through the heart of the Swedish defense and gets on the end of a cross from the left side. But her header drifts too close to Lindahl, who fists it away. A minute later Lloyd sends her own header to the left of the goal and out of bounds.

Credit…Alexandra Garcia/The New York Times

87′ Press chests down a high cross from Rapinoe and lashes a right-footed shot toward the far post. It’s got a bit too much English on it, though, and twists away from the frame of the goal. The U.S. is keeping up the pressure, but Sweden is maintaining its composure. It’s a really impressive performance from the team in yellow.

Credit…Alexandra Garcia/The New York Times

81′ The Americans make a couple of late subs, with defender Tierna Davidson coming on for Crystal Dunn, and midfielder Kristie Mewis entering the game for Rose Lavelle.

75′ Two final subs for Sweden, which — given how this has gone so far — shouid have no trouble seeing this out from here.

73′ Lina Hurtig was being marked by Abby Dahlkemper … until she was not. When Hanna Glas floated a high, arcing cross from the right sideline, Hurtig was all alone to head it calmly past Naeher. The celebration was muted; Sweden is in complete control, after all. This feels out of reach for the United States and will be a stunning result for a team widely expected to win the gold medal.

72′ GOAL! 3-0 Sweden. Woof.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times


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