US knocked out of Women’s World Cup after penalty shootout loss to Sweden

Aug 6, 2023, 8:00 AM | Updated: 8:13 am

(CNN) — The US’ participation in the Women’s World Cup is over, ending in the cruelest of ...

United States' Lindsey Horan heads the ball during the Women's World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Sweden and the United States in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

(CNN) — The US’ participation in the Women’s World Cup is over, ending in the cruelest of defeats.

It was tense, the sort of match which causes the stomach to churn, but it is Sweden which progresses to the quarterfinals, stopping the two-time defending champion from achieving a historic three consecutive world titles, with a thrilling penalty shootout victory in Melbourne on Sunday.

The match was decided by the video assistant referee (VAR), with referee Stéphanie Frappart – after reviewing the action – deeming that Lina Hurtig’s penalty had crossed the line despite the US’ Alyssa Naeher getting her hands to the ball and initially appearing to save it.

Sweden’s players celebrated joyously, while there were tears from the US squad, its participation ending in the round-of-16, the earliest the US has ever departed a Women’s World Cup.

With the score goalless after 120 minutes of play – 90 minutes of regulation time and 30 minutes of extra-time – the match had to be decided by penalty kicks.

Sweden’s Nathalie Björn was the first player to miss from the spot, giving Megan Rapinoe, who has now played her last major tournament for her country, the chance to put the US ahead in the shootout yet Rapinoe – usually the most reliable of penalty takers – missed to give Sweden hope again.

Rebecka Blomqvist of Sweden and the US’ Sophia Smith proceeded to also miss from the spot. With the scores tied at 4-4, up stepped substitute Kelley O’Hara for the US and her effort hit the crossbar, presenting Hurtig with the chance to win it for her team.

Changing of the guard

The closer a team gets to achieving history, the bigger the expectations become, the more microscopic the focus on its every travail. The burden of becoming the first to win three successive World Cups ultimately proved too heavy, though there is some solace in defeat as this was the US’ best performance of the tournament.

The US has never finished lower than third at a World Cup, so this will be a chastening experience for a country that has for decades been a standard-bearer in women’s soccer.

Four years ago, when it won its second successive title, the US was the dominant side of its generation, but times have changed and the sport has moved on.

Much has been written about the American squad’s struggles in this tournament. There was just one victory in the group stage and a goalpost came to the team’s rescue against Portugal, preventing the Portuguese from scoring a late winner which would’ve ended the US participation in this tournament.

Plenty has been said about the US’ mentality this last week, too – former player Carli Lloyd was particularly vocal in her criticism following the 1-1 draw with Portugal – but to put this defeat down to the disintegration of the country’s famed winning mentality would be too simplistic.

“That’s our secret sauce, it’s the insatiable desire to win,” Rapinoe told CNN Sport before the start of the tournament. But defeat doesn’t mean the team lacked the desire to win. It did, however, lack the killer instinct of old, dominating Sweden – the US had 21 shots on goal, 11 on target – without being able to puncture its defense.

That goalkeeper Zećira Mušović was Sweden’s star player says much about the story of the match. That the Swedes only had three touches in the opposition penalty box in the first half and had its first shot on target, through substitute Sofia Jakobsson, in the 85th minute says much about how the winning team played. But it is Sweden which progresses to the last eight to face Japan on Friday. Sport can be brutal.

A painful loss

There were changes to the US team from the 11 that started against Portugal. In came Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett, the latter performing a crucial defensive role in midfield as coach Vlatko Andonovski switched formation to a five-player midfield.

The new starters played the brightest in the first half and, as the game progressed, the US became more at ease in possession. Though, for a team ranked third in the world, Sweden did little to test the opposition.

Dominating possession and creating several chances – the majority of which fell to Rodman, who twice forced saves from Mušović with strikes from distance – the US had the better of the first half.

Captain Lindsey Horan came the closest to breaking the deadlock, her header from a corner hitting the crossbar in the 34th minute, which caused the US substitutes to rise to their feet on the sidelines.

It was tense – as knockout matches on a stage such as this are – and the longer the match progressed, the more strained the occasion became.

Soon after the restart, Horan forced a fine close-range diving save from Mušović, and again Sweden’s goalkeeper came to her country’s rescue when she prevented Alex Morgan from scoring minutes from full-time with another stop from point-blank range.

In extra-time, Mušović stood firm, first against Morgan and then Sophia Smith, the latter trying to beat her at the near post in the 107th minute.

Yet, for all the possession, for all the endeavor, for all the attempts on Sweden’s goal, the US was not clinical enough.

This being a knockout match, there had to be a winner, and so the game went to penalties; to luck, to nerve and to the most painful of losses for the loser.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Image of new free street soccer court in Salt Lake City's Sherwood Park. The organizer of Free The ...

Eric Cabrera

Free street soccer court built in Sherwood Park, and there are more to come

Free the Game is a non-profit, on a mission to bring more soccer opportunities to underserved communities across Utah.

6 hours ago

Travis Kelce and Taylor swift allegedly dating after Taylor was seen with Kelce's mom Donna at Sund...

Derrick Jones

Taylor Swift: how the pop star boosted NFL jersey sales by 400%

Travis Kelce and Taylor swift allegedly dating after Taylor was seen with Kelce's mom Donna at Sunday's game

1 day ago

Nearly 3,000 people linked arms and locked up to form the world's largest scrum in honor of a 6-yea...

Sean Walker,

Have You Seen This? World’s largest rugby scrum honors Springville girl with cancer

A 6-year-old girl from Springville who has brain cancer had her unique wish come true through Make-A-Wish Utah.

8 days ago

A viewing tower is pictured by the ski jumps at the Utah Olympic Park, which was built for the Salt...

Associated Press

Olympic committee gives Salt Lake City official go-ahead as bidder for future Winter Games

Salt Lake City received the endorsement of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee as the country's bid winner host the Winter Games in either 2030 or 2034.

13 days ago

Utah’s head coach Tom Farden leads the team in a chant after winning the Pac-12 Gymnastics Champi...

Kira Hoffelmeyer

Utah gymnastics coach probe finds no evidence of severe abuse

The athletics department said it would work with Utah gymnastics coach Tom Farden on ways to better engage with athletes under his charge. 

13 days ago

Image of New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers being helped off the field after and injury during...

Associated Press

NFLPA calls for natural grass to help prevent injuries like Rodgers’

The Association said NFL players “overwhelmingly prefer it and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf."

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

US knocked out of Women’s World Cup after penalty shootout loss to Sweden