Usual rivals Sweden and the United States will meet again in the Women’s World Cup, but this time the stakes are higher.
The two-time defending US champions struggled to reach the round of 16 against the Swedes on Sunday. The teams have repeatedly met at the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
“We always find a way to play with them in major tournaments, so we know that they are a very good team. Every time we play them, it’s a battle,” Team USA captain Lindsey Horan said ahead of the match in Melbourne, Australia.
The United States is aiming for an unprecedented third consecutive world title but is struggling to get ahead with just one win in its group. On Tuesday, the Americans nearly knocked out Portugal.
They are not like the team that won titles in 2015 and 2019. The American team won all seven games last year.
The United States has only scored four goals this year, and coach Vlatko Andonovski has included 14 World Cup debut players.
Sweden won all three group stage matches and beat the opposition 9-1. The team finished the first stage with a 2-0 victory over Argentina.
“It’s the Round of 16, they’re going to be strong opponents and it’s going to be a tough fight,” said US striker Lynn Williams.
The United States has faced Sweden six times in the World Cup group stage, most recently in 2019 when they won 2-0 en route to their fourth World Cup.
In total, in 2015, the United States won four meetings with Sweden, with one loss and a 0-0 draw.
But in recent years, the Swedes have won the Olympics. The Americans failed to medal in Rio 2016 after losing to Sweden in the quarterfinals.
Sweden also beat the USA 3-0 in the group stage in Tokyo.
The Swedes knew they were going to face the Americans before the final group game, so they rested the starting lineup and made nine lineup changes. But they had one day less to prepare for Sunday’s game.
“If you want to go all the way
“If you are going to go all the way, sooner or later you will have to play with such an opponent. The US is number one on the list. It might be better to play them on Sunday rather than in the semi-final or final,” said Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson.