The three-time defending champion U.S. women’s national soccer team won’t win an Olympic medal for the first time after being ousted by Sweden on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Tied after three rounds in the shootout, Sweden captain Caroline Seger beat Hope Solo, and Christen Press’ attempt for the Americans against Hedvig Lindhal went over the net. With the next kick, Lisa Dahlkvist beat an outstretched Solo for the 4-3 win.
As Sweden celebrated, U.S. captain Carli Lloyd crouched on the field at Mane Garrincha Stadium. It was the first time that an Olympic women’s match had gone to penalties.
It was the earliest the United States had ever been eliminated from the Olympics since women’s soccer became a sport in 1996.
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Sweden is coached by Pia Sundhage, who coached the U.S. team for five years and led the squad to gold medals in both Beijing and London.
“Sweden had a game plan and executed it well,” FC Kansas City and national team co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn said in an email to The Star. “They sat in and (were) defensively compact and then tried to catch us out on the counterattack. We battled hard and had the ball in dangerous spots but just didn't have the finishing touch we needed.”
After a scoreless first half, Stina Blackstenius scored in the 61st minute, giving Sweden a 1-0 lead. It was just Blackstenius’ second international goal.
Alex Morgan scored the equalizer in the 78th minute on a shot that bounced off a Swedish defender. It was Morgan’s team-leading 13th goal of the year.
In the extra time, Lloyd had a header called back for offside in the 115th minute, and Sweden’s Lotta Schelin was offside on her attempt against Solo a minute later — although replays appeared to show Schelin was not offside.
The Americans, who are reigning World Cup champions and who are four-time Olympic champions, had not dropped a match this year. But it is Sweden that will play in the semifinals againt either Australia or host Brazil.
“I’m extremely proud of this team and how we battled; losing this match doesn't change that,” Sauerbrunn said. “We make no excuses. We didn’t win.”
The Americans won their first two matches in Brazil before a surprising 2-2 draw in Manaus against Colombia, a team that had already been eliminated.
Julie Johnston returned to the starting lineup for the Americans on Friday after missing the last two games with a groin injury. Coach Jill Ellis played all her regular starters after rotating and resting many against Colombia in the heat and humidity of the Amazon. Megan Rapinoe, who started against Colombia after missing more than eight months following right knee surgery, was on the bench but came on as a substitute in the second half. Press replaced Rapinoe in the extra period.
Sweden had won only five matches against the United States. At last year’s World Cup, the two teams played to a scoreless draw. The last time the two teams met in the Olympics was at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Sundhage was a player on the Sweden team that fell 2-1 to the Americans.
Ranked sixth in the world, Sweden had struggled in its Olympic group with a 5-1 loss to host Brazil and finished 1-1-1 in group play.
Lloyd buried her head in her hands early in the second half after her free kick was off the mark. Just moments later, she had another that was off-target, too, as the United States struggled to finish throughout the match.
“We didn’t win a match, an important one,” Sauerbrunn said. “We live to fight another day. We let this burn, and we hurt, and we look to the next competition.”
The crowd was sparse at the start of the match and never extended much past the lower bowl of the massive 72,000-seat venue that was reconstructed and expanded for the men’s 2014 World Cup.
The fans that were there continued to jeer Solo with shouts of “Zika!” every time she touched the ball. The fans have taunted her since the opening match in Brazil because of her posts on social media about the virus.