The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) has advanced to the elimination rounds of the Olympic soccer tournament and will play Sweden in the quarterfinals on Friday, August 12.
Although the USWNT had already clinched their spot in the quarterfinals after defeating France 1-0 in their second match of the Olympic group stage, their 2-2 draw over Colombia on Tuesday night earned them the top spot of Group G. That top spot meant an easier opponent in the quarterfinals.
Sweden’s 0-0 draw with China earned them the third place spot in their group, and Sweden had enough points to be one of the two third-place teams to advance to the quarterfinals and another major tournament match against the USWNT.
In the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the USWNT and Sweden were in the same group, and Sweden handed the U.S. their only non-win of the tournament when their group play match ended in a scoreless draw. However, Sweden came dangerously close to defeating the USWNT in a play that saw 5’2" defender Meghan Klingenberg make a goal line clearance with a header to keep Sweden off the board.
Although Sweden is the sixth-ranked team in the world (compared to host Brazil at no. 8 and Canada at no. 10), they may just have been the best opponent for the USWNT in the quarters.
For one, the USWNT has not been playing to the level that they need to be playing in a major tournament, especially in their group stage finale against Colombia, a match that should have been a win for the U.S. instead of a draw. The poor result against Colombia could merely be the result of resting regular starters—Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg and Julie Johnston did not play any while Allie Long, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd all played a half or less—in anticipation of the quarterfinals.
However, of the other teams advancing to the quarterfinals, Sweden has had the least impressive showing so far. Sweden had a 1-1-1 record in Olympic group play, defeated South Africa 1-0 and losing to Brazil 5-1. They have struggled against opponents that they should not have had, and they have looked disjointed at times.
Therefore, Sweden is a better opponent for the USWNT, who is still trying to work out the kinks, than Australia who has had a surprisingly successful tournament, especially in their 2-2 draw against Germany.
The USWNT hopefully has worked out those kinks before Friday, as the elimination rounds are win or go home. The top-seeded U.S. are the favorites to win it all, but no team has ever won back-to-back World Cup titles and Olympic golds. It would be a major accomplishment if the USWNT could be the first team to achieve this feat, but there will need to be much improvement against Sweden if that is to happen.
Sweden is also going to play its hardest to stay in the contest.
Of note in this match is that Sweden’s head coach is former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, who coached the USWNT to a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics.
The USWNT takes on Sweden on Friday, August 12 at 12 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and NBC Universo and will be streamed online at nbcolympics.com.
United States Women’s National Team Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (6): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)
HEAD COACH: Jill Ellis
Sweden Women’s National Team Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Hilda Carlén (Piteå IF), Hedvig Lindahl (Chelsea)
DEFENDERS (6): Joanna Andersson (Linköpings FC), Emma Berglund (FC Rosengård), Magdalena Ericsson (Linköpings FC), Nilla Fishcer (VfL Wolfsburg), Jessica Samuelsson (Linköpings FC), Linda Sembrant (Montellier HSC)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Emilia Appelqvist (Djurgårdens IF), Kosovare Asllani (Manchester City), Lisa Dahlkvist (KIF Öbrero), Elin Rubensson (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC), Caroline Seger (C; Olympique Lyonnaise)
FORWARDS (5): Stina Blackstenius (Linköpings FC), Sofia Jakobsson (Montpellier HSC), Fridolina Rolfö (Linköpings FC) Lotta Schelin (C; FC Rosengård), Olive Schough (Eskilstuna United)
HEAD COACH: Pia Sundhage