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U.S. eliminated from Women's World Cup in heartbreaking loss to Sweden

U.S. bounced from Women's World Cup
U.S. bounced from Women's World Cup 01:56

The United States has been eliminated from the Women's World Cup after a heartbreaking loss to Sweden in the Round of 16.

The defending champions lost on penalty kicks 5-4, with the final dagger barely breaking the plane of the goal to send Sweden to the next round.

The Americans' bid to win an unprecedented third consecutive title ended when Lina Hurtig converted to send the U.S. home after a scoreless draw. It is the earliest exit in tournament history for the United States, the two-time reigning champions and four-time winners.

"We didn't put anything in the back of the net," sobbed Julie Ertz after the loss. "The penalties were tough. It's just emotional because it's probably my last game ever. It's just tough. It's an emotional time. It obviously sucks. Penalties are the worst."

Sweden v USA: Round of 16 - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023
United States players react after losing to Sweden during the Round of 16 at the Women's World Cup on Aug. 6, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia.  Carmen Mandato/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher fruitlessly argued she had saved Hurtig's attempt, but it was ruled over the line. The stadium played Abba's "Dancing Queen" in the stadium as the Swedes celebrated.

The United States was eliminated in the Round of 16 for the first time in team history. The American's worst finish had been third place, three times.

Following the loss, first lady Dr. Jill Biden wrote on social media that the women's team "made this sport matter."

"Today, you inspired us with your grit and determination. We are proud of you. Always remember that you encourage women and girls everywhere to show up and fight for their dreams," she wrote.

The loss was somewhat expected based on the Americans' listless play through three group stage matches. But they played their best game of this World Cup against Sweden, only to have it decided by penalties.

"I am proud of the women on the field," said U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski. "I know we were criticized for the way we played, and for different moments in the group stage. I think we came out today and showed the grit, the resilience, the fight. The bravery showed we did everything we could to win the game. And, unfortunately, soccer can be cruel sometimes."

"It's a tough moment for everyone, but at the same time, I know they will use this moment as a motivation in the future, and not to go through the same thing ever again," Andonovski said.

It was the first match at this World Cup to go to extra time.

It was the fourth time the Americans went to extra time at the World Cup. All three previous matches went to penalties, including the 2011 final won by Japan. The U.S. won on penalties in a 2011 quarterfinal match against Brazil, and in the 1999 final at the final at the Rose Bowl against China.

Sweden knocked the United States out of the 2016 Olympics in the quarterfinals on penalties.

Sweden goes on to the quarterfinals to play Japan, the 2011 World Cup winner, which defeated Norway 3-1 on Saturday night.

Sweden has never won a major international tournament, either the World Cup or the Olympics. The closest the team has come is World Cup runner-up in 2003. They finished in third in the 1999, 2011 and 2019 editions, and won silver medals in the last two Olympics.

The result ended the international career of United States star Megan Rapinoe, who said this would be her last World Cup. She had taken on a smaller role for the Americans in her final tournament and was a substitute in the United States' first and third games of group play, and didn't get off the bench in the middle match.

"I feel so proud of everything this team has done," Rapinoe said after the match. "Everything we've done on the field. Everything we've done off the field."

She came on in extra time against Sweden and in her final game and few minutes of action, she failed to control a ball played in deep, whiffed on a rebound, hit the side of the net with a corner and then missed the penalty that would have won the game for the United States.

Megan Rapinoe reacts after missing her team's fourth penalty in the penalty shootout with Sweden on Aug. 6, 2023, in Melbourne.
Megan Rapinoe reacts after missing her team's fourth penalty in the penalty shootout with Sweden on Aug. 6, 2023, in Melbourne. Alex Pantling - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

The Americans struggled through group play with just four goals in three matches. They were nearly eliminated last Tuesday by first-timers Portugal, but eked out a 0-0 draw to fall to second in their group for just the second time at a World Cup.

The Americans looked far better against Sweden, dominating possession and outshooting the Swedes 5-1 in the first half alone. Lindsey Horan's first-half header hit the crossbar and a second-half blast was saved by goalkeeper Zecira Musovic, who had six saves in regulation.

Sweden won all three of their group games, including a 5-0 rout of Italy in its final group match. Coach Peter Gerhardsson made nine lineup changes for the match, resting his starters in anticipation of the United States.

It was tense from the opening whistle.

Naeher punched the ball away from a crowded goal on an early Sweden corner kick. Three of the Swedes' goals against Italy came on set pieces.

Trinity Rodman's shot from distance in the 18th minute was easily caught by Musovic, who stopped another chance by Rodman in the 27th.

Horan's header off Andi Sullivan's corner in the 34th hit the crossbar and skipped over the goal. Horan was on target in the 53rd minute but Musovic dove to push it wide. Horan crouched to the field in frustration while Musovic was swarmed by her teammates.

The United States was without Rose Lavelle, who picked up her second yellow card of the tournament in the group stage finale against Portugal and has to sit out against Sweden.

In Lavelle's absence, Andonovski started Emily Sonnett, who was making her first start for the team since 2022. The addition of Sonnett allowed Horan to move up higher in the midfield.

Sweden pressed in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Sofia Jakobsson, who came in as a substitute in the 81st minute, nearly scored in the 85th but Naeher managed to catch it for her first save of the tournament.

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