TOKYO – Instead of taking revenge for their fall at the Rio Olympics, US women got embarrassed.
The reigning world champion was completely outclassed by the old enemy Sweden in the opening game at the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Wednesday, a 3-0 defeat that could honestly have been much worse. The Americans were played out, out of sync and missed the few opportunities they had.
It was her worst performance in a major international tournament since losing 4-0 to Brazil in the semi-finals of the 2007 World Cup. It was her first loss since January 2019 – she ended a 44-game unbeaten streak.
The only positive thing is that, unlike the loss against Sweden in 2016, it wasn’t a knockout game and the top two in each group are guaranteed to advance. But if the US doesn’t get off the ground quickly, it will consider a similar early exit from Tokyo.
The USA will next play against New Zealand on Saturday.
The Americans had been pointing out this game for five years since losing to Sweden on penalties in the 2016 Olympics quarter-finals. It was their worst result so far in a major tournament, the first time they had not won a medal in an Olympics or a World Cup.
The defeat drove them in 2019 when they won their second World Cup in a row. And they were confident that the extra year of preparation due to the COVID-19 delay would work in their favor as they tried to become the first reigning world champion to win the Olympic title.
But the Americans looked against Sweden the way teams normally look against them: incapable and incapable of doing anything about it.
It wasn’t just Stina Blackstenius’s two goals, one in each half. Or Lina Hurtig’s header in 72nd place. This is largely the same roster that won a World Cup for the second year in a row in 2019, but there are pickup ranks that look more cohesive.
Sweden shredded and snaked through midfield as if the Americans were invisible. Or stop. Their defensive mistakes were confusing; in Blackstenius’ second goal, for example, she was largely unimpressed with a corner kick at the far post, so that she failed a rebound over the head of Alyssa Naeher in 54th position.
It didn’t take long when the Americans got the ball – or too much effect. Empty seats were passed too often and the Americans never felt like they were in control. At some point in the first half, when the game was still within reach, Rose Lavelle held out her hands as if to say, “What are we going to do?”
The only threats were gunshots from the posts by Lavelle and Christen Press.
The additions of Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz at halftime also had little effect. Oh, the Americans seemed a little more active, but they still couldn’t curb Sweden’s pace or produce something like an offensive.
The 2016 defeat came on penalties and the Americans could at least comfort themselves knowing the game could have ended either way. There are no excuses in this game. As the best team in the world for much of the past three decades, the Americans have simply been outplayed.