Sweden didn’t have to bunker down on defense against the Americans this time.
Stina Blackstenius scored a pair of goals and the Swedes stunned the United States at the Olympics with a 3-0 victory Wednesday in the women’s soccer tournament.
The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world and the favorites to win gold in Tokyo, were riding a 44-match unbeaten streak heading into the match. But Sweden, ranked No. 5, has been the U.S. team’s nemesis of sorts in recent years. The Swedes bounced the Americans from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarterfinals, the earliest U.S. Olympic exit ever, by making a defensive stand.
This April, Sweden played the United States to a 1-1 draw in Stockholm, which snapped a winning streak dating back to January 2019 when the Americans lost to France in the run-up to the World Cup. It was the U.S. team’s only draw this year.
The United States, which came out stale, had its best chance of the opening half in the final moments when Rose Lavelle’s shot hit the post. Coach Vlatko Andonovski made changes for the second half, subbing in Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz for Sam Mewis.
But Blackstenius scored again in the 54th minute, beating goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, as the Americans continued to struggle. Lina Hurtig added the final goal in the 72nd.
Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl acknowledged the win over the favorites was encouraging, but it’s still just the beginning of the tournament. Ahead are group games against Australia and New Zealand.
The loss was the first for the United States under Andonovski, who took over when former coach Jill Ellis stepped down following the team’s World Cup victory in France. Late in the match, Andonovski sat expressionless on the bench.
The Swedes were without Magda Eriksson because of injury. The team said she has been training, but because of the compact schedule of the tournament she was held out of the opener.
Tokyo is Sweden’s seventh Olympics. After getting eliminated by Sweden on penalties in the quarterfinals five years ago, U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo famously called the Swedes cowards for their defensive tactics.
Sweden went on to win the silver medal, losing to Germany 2-1 in the final.
The United States has been to all seven Olympics that have included women’s soccer, too, winning four Olympic gold medals, more than any other nation. The team is vying to become the first to win Olympic gold following a World Cup title.
In 2008, the United States also lost its first match, 2-0 to Norway, but went on to win the gold medal.
It was just the sixth time that the United States had lost by three or more goals.
Sweden now leads Group G heading into Saturday’s game against Australia in Saitama, while the United States faces New Zealand at the same stadium. The top two teams in the group advance to the knockout round.