The unthinkable happened today at Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil as Sweden eliminated the United States from the Olympics on penalty kicks after the two sides played to a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
The U.S. was attempting to become the first team to ever win the Olympics back to back with the World Cup, which of course the Americans claimed last summer in Canada.
Firsts were everywhere today as Rio 2016 becomes the first time that the U.S. WNT has ever been eliminated from the Olympics or the Women’s World Cup before the semifinals and the first occasion that the Americans have failed to qualify for the Olympic Final.
And on the other, happier side of the field, today’s historic victory marks the first time that Sweden has ever advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic Games.
As for the game itself, it is one that the Americans will look back on with regret and not just for the loss but for the manner of that loss in a game that saw the Americans dominate play for almost all of the 90 minutes of regulation and each of the two 15 minute extra time periods.
The Americans opened the game with a flourish, looking for all the world like a group determined to put Tuesday’s disappointing 2-2 draw with Colombia behind them.
But the Americans were unable to make use of that quick start and were made to look vulnerable on a Swedish corner kick in one of Sweden’s initial attacks.
That would be the pattern of the first half, the Americans would dominate without finding a goal, only to go into panic mode on the rare occasion of a Sweden corner kick.
When halftime arrived and the scoreboard read 0-0 it was a surprise that former United States coach Pia Sundhage would have welcomed, even if the Americans still seemed the likely to emerge as winners.
The second half was much of the same as Sweden stuck to its task of defending deep, frustrating the favorites, and waiting to spring a counter attack.
That patience paid off just past the hour mark when Stina Blacksteinus ran onto a defense-splitting through ball from Lisa Dahlkvist and coolly picked her spot, leaving Hope Solo no chance and handing Sweden a 1-0 lead.
With about a half an hour still to play the Americans did not panic, why panic when you can insert Crystal Dunn. Dunn came on for defensive midfielder Allie Long and the player that coach Jill Ellis calls a game changer did just that.
Ellis will take some flack for her second substitution, however, given that Megan Rapinoe lasted only 27 minutes after taking over for Kelly O’Hara, replaced herself in extra time by Christen Press.
The coach gets a pass here because even if a gamble sometimes doesn’t pay off, Rapinoe is a player worth rolling the dice on.
The U.S. pulled even in the 76th minute from an Alex Morgan goal, leading to some frantic final minutes as the U.S. threw everything forward while Sweden defended for its life.
There was plenty of back and forth in extra time even as both teams clearly began to tire. Two referees decisions took center stage as the extra time wound down with each team being denied a goal, incorrectly it seemed, in both cases.
First Carli Lloyd looked to have saved the Americans Olympic dream when she finished from Dunn’s cross but the goal was called back for offside or possibly a push by Lloyd. Neither looked correct but before the dust settled Sweden was in the same boat when Lotta Schelin had her goal waved away for a blatantly incorrect offside call.
Then it was on to pks. Alex Morgan put the U.S. under pressure when her poor peno was saved by Hedvig Lindahl, who was sharp today, and needed to be.
Solo denied Sweden’s third spot kick by Linda Schelin, putting the U.S. back on equal footing. Morgan Brian briefly put the U.S. on top but Caroline Seger just about got her shot past Solo as the shootout went to round five.
Christen Press stepped up and ballooned her shot, giving Sweden the chance to win it. With Olympic elimination staring the U.S. in the face, Solo reached into her bag of tricks and came up with a need for new gloves.
Lisa Dahlkvist was made to wait while new gloves were procured but the midfielder kept her nerve and on the referee’s signal Dahlkvist put her penalty past Solo, sending the U.S. home empty handed and putting Sweden into the Olympic semifinals.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 ET1 ET2 F
USA 0 1 0 0 1
SWE 0 1 0 0 1
SWE – Stina Blackstenius (Lisa Dahlkvist) 61st minute
USA – Alex Morgan 77
USA – Alex Morgan (save), Lindsey Horan (goal), Carli Lloyd (goal), Morgan Brian (goal), Christen Press (miss)
SWE – Lotta Schelin (goal), Kosovare Asllani (goal), Linda Sembrant (save), Caroline Seger (goal), Lisa Dahlkvist (goal)
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 5-Kelley O’Hara (15-Megan Rapinoe, 72 (12-Christen Press, 99)), 8-Julie Johnston, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 7-Meghan Klingenberg; 3-Allie Long (16-Crystal Dunn, 65), 14-Morgan Brian, 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.); 17-Tobin Heath, 13-Alex Morgan, 2-Mallory Pugh (9-Lindsey Horan, 114)
Subs not used: 6-Whitney Engen, 11-Ali Krieger, 18-Alyssa Naeher
Head Coach: Jill Ellis
SWE: 1-Hedvig Lindahl; 15-Jessica Samuelsson (4-Emma Berglund, 119), 5-Nilla Fischer, 3-Linda Sembrant, 16-Elin Rubensson (6-Magdalena Eriksson, 71); 9-Kosovare Asllani, 7-Lisa Dahlkvist, 17-Caroline Seger (capt.); 10-Sofia Jakobsson (12-Olivia Schough, 91), 13-Fridolina Rolfo (11-Stina Blackstenius, 18), 8-Lotta Schelin
Subs not used: 2-Jonna Andersson, 14-Emilia Appelqvist, 18-Hilda Carlen
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage
Stats Summary: USA / SWE
Shots: 27 / 6
Shots on Goal: 6 / 2
Saves: 1 / 5
Corner Kicks: 12 / 3
Fouls: 4 / 15
Offside: 5 / 5
SWE – Lotta Schelin (caution) 57th minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (caution) 110