US women’s 44-game unbeaten run ended by Sweden at Olympics
A pair of goals from Swedish forward Stina Blackstenius spelled catastrophe for the United States on Wednesday, as they suffered a shock 3-0 defeat in their Tokyo 2020 debut.
Fifth-ranked Sweden put the pressure on almost immediately with three shots in the first eight minutes, as the four-time Olympic gold medalists showed little sign of the stellar unbeaten run they have enjoyed since 2019.
Midfielder Rose Lavelle nearly equalised with a header in minute 45 off a corner kick from Christen Press but hit the post.
The addition of veteran midfielder Julie Ertz did little to revive the US in the second half, as Blackstenius again scored in the 54th minute.
The match was personal for Team USA: The Swedes knocked the four-time World Cup winners out of the tournament on penalties in the quarter-finals in 2016.
But their much hoped-for revenge in front of 48,000 empty seats inside the Tokyo Stadium was not to be, as forward Christen Press missed a wide open net at close range midway through the second half.
Swedish midfielder Lina Hurtig then heaped on more pain with a clinical header to give her side a three-goal cushion a minute later.
The Rio defeat marked the US team’s earliest exit in Olympic history, after previously reaching the final of every edition of the Games since 1996, when the women’s event was introduced.
The two sides drew 1-1 in an April friendly, the only blemish to the United States’ 2021 record of 11 wins in 12 matches and a prescient warning of the challenges the team would face in their 2020 Tokyo kickoff.
The defeat was the US’ first under head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who took over from Jill Ellis in 2019.
The pandemic-postponed Games kicked off earlier Wednesday with a victory for the Olympic hosts, as Japan’s softball team walloped Australia 8-1 at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium.
The US next face New Zealand in the group stage, while Sweden play Australia, both on Saturday.