Sweden defeated the reigning champions USA in a tense penalty shootout in a stunning turn of events at the Women’s World Cup. A match in which the Americans dominated possession resulted in an unexpected loss, marking the United States’ earliest ever withdrawal from the competition. Despite the USA team’s constant efforts, Sweden’s goalie Zecira Musovic’s outstanding performance kept them from scoring, and Sweden’s tenacity resulted in penalties.
Stellar Defence and Unexpected Upsets
After 120 minutes of normal and extra time, the score remained tied, with Musovic emerging as the night’s hero. Throughout the match in Melbourne, the USA had multiple chances to take the lead but were consistently denied by Musovic, who produced an incredible 11 saves.
When it came down to penalties, the USA’s hopes of progressing in the tournament began to crumble as star player Megan Rapinoe missed her shot. This miss, which could be her final World Cup appearance after she announced her retirement at the end of the year, was the start of the USA’s downfall. Their defeat was later confirmed following a VAR review of a contentious penalty shot by Sweden’s Lina Hurtig, resulting in a historic low for the squad as they failed to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in history.
Sweden’s Triumph Amid Controversy
The penalty shootout was a cauldron of drama, but it was Hurtig’s shot that sparked the most controversy and ultimately jubilation for Sweden. Initially, it seemed that US keeper Alyssa Naeher had successfully saved Hurtig’s attempt, but the VAR review determined the ball had crossed the line by mere millimetres. The decision, met with fervent protest and disbelief from the US team, paved Sweden’s path into the quarter-finals against Japan.
Missed Opportunities and Tactical Questions
The US team, lead by manager Vlatko Andonovski, may face concerns about their tactical decisions throughout the game. The arrival of double World Cup champions Megan Rapinoe, Kristie Mewis, and Kelley O’Hara during extra time will be scrutinised, especially because their impact on the game was less than expected. While Mewis scored in the shootout, Rapinoe’s attempt went over the bar, and O’Hara missed her penalty, giving Sweden the opportunity to win. Despite dominating the field and creating multiple chances during the game, the United States failed to capitalise on these opportunities, resulting in a historic defeat.
The Rapinoe Era Ends on a Sour Note
Megan Rapinoe, a symbol of inspiration and determination for the USA Women’s Football, ended her World Cup journey on a heartbreaking note. Her missed penalty during the shootout not only contributed to the USA’s defeat but also cast a shadow over what was otherwise an illustrious career. The icon’s departure, along with the USA’s surprising exit from the tournament, could mark the end of an era for the USA in women’s football.
A New Era in Women’s Football
The USA’s defeat in this critical match could mark the dawn of a new era in women’s football. With Sweden’s victory, largely aided by Musovic’s extraordinary performance, they have demonstrated their ability to compete against and overcome the traditional powerhouses of the game. As the four-time world champions prepare for their quarter-final match against Japan, the international women’s football community will be watching to see if this victory signals a dramatic shift in the global landscape.