So much for gold medal favorites. The No. 1-ranked U.S. women’s national team was thrashed 3-0 by No. 5-ranked Sweden in the opening Olympic group-stage match for both teams. And it was never close.
The USWNT, which entered the tournament on a 44-match unbeaten streak, was second best from the opening whistle and was utterly dominated by a Sweden side that was more aggressive, faster, stronger, sharper and fresher all over the field. Sweden’s pressing and attacking movements had the USA in disarray and the Americans never recovered.
Stina Blackstenius scored twice and her substitute in the second half, Lina Hurtig, got a third to cap a memorable performance by Sweden, which had knocked out the USA at the quarterfinal stage of the 2016 Olympics. The Americans would not get their revenge in this instance.
Blackstenius headed home a cross from the right in the 25th minute and then put home a rebound in the 54th minute after a corner kick was headed by a teammate off the left post. Another cross from the right found a wide-open Hurtig for an easy header to round out a stunning result in the 72nd minute. Here’s why 3-0 was so stunning: In 12 previous matches played in 2021, the USA had only conceded a single goal — that was to Sweden in an April friendly that finished 1-1.
MORE: Updated women’s Olympic soccer group standings
There were two moments when the momentum could have shifted in the USA’s direction. Rose Lavelle headed a potential 1-1 equalizer off the left post just before halftime and Christen Press hit the post in the second half, just before Sweden struck for its third goal.
It was only the second-ever loss in regulation suffered by the USWNT at the Olympics and the most lopsided loss in a major tournament since a 4-0 loss to Brazil in a 2007 World Cup semifinal. But the U.S. is not in danger of Olympic elimination for now. In the next match it faces the weakest team in Group G, New Zealand, knowing that the top two teams in each group and the two best third-place teams advance to the quarterfinals.
Megan Rapinoe on the loss to Sweden: “We got our asses kicked, didn’t we? I thought we were a little tight, a little nervous, just doing dumb stuff.”
— Andrew Keh (@andrewkeh) July 21, 2021
USWNT vs. Sweden final score
SWE: Stina Blackstenius (Sofia Jakobsson) – 25th min
SWE: Stina Blackstenius – 54th min
SWE: Lina Hurtig (Hanna Glas) – 72nd min
(All times Eastern)
Final: USA 0, Sweden 3
Final: You’ll be hard-pressed to remember the last time the U.S. women’s national team was that thoroughly outplayed by an opponent. The Americans have had their challenges against Sweden in the recent past, but this was wire-to-wire domination. Much will be made of the U.S. lineup selections and the lack of an effective in-game adjustment by the coaching staff, but you were expecting to see a response at some point, and it never came. That might be the most shocking aspect of a result that will be hard to shake off.
91st min: We’re in stoppage time and Christen Press forces a great save from the Sweden goalkeeper. Great cross by Davidson to find Press in the middle of the box and the ‘keeper makes a diving save.
81st min: SUBS – Crystal Dunn comes off. Tierna Davidson and Kristie Mewis enter the match for the USA.
72nd min: The USWNT goes from nearly cutting the deficit to conceding a third goal. Incredible. A cross from Glas on the right and Hurtig is wide open to head home. 3-0 Sweden.
71st min: The USA hits the post again! Rapinoe to Press, who hits the left post, and the American players can’t get to the rebound.
70th min: Naeher needs to make another save on another Sweden shot. The Swedes are not afraid to let it fly.
64th min: SUBS – Megan Rapinoe enters the match for Tobin Heath. Blackstenius also comes off the field for Sweden and Hurtig takes her place.
61st min: After a Blackstenius shot is blocked by USWNT defender Dahlkemper on one end, Carli Lloyd gets her first shot off on the other and it’s deflected for a corner. Nothing comes of it for the USA.
54th min: Blackstenius doubles Sweden’s lead! A corner kick is headed off the left post and Blackstenius is there to roof the ball at the doorstep for a 2-0 advantage. The USWNT stunned again.
52nd min: Variation on a theme – Sweden also exerting themselves physically. Kelley O’Hara is bodied twice and she was shaken up on both collisions. Play has to stop for treatment. She’ll continue.
48th min: Sweden want to keep the attacking momentum and it’s Rolfo firing a long-distance shot that goes high.
46th min: SUBS – To start the half the USWNT brings on Julie Ertz for Sam Mewis and Carli Lloyd comes in for Alex Morgan. It’s the first appearance for Ertz since a knee injury suffered in the NWSL in May.
Halftime: USA 0, Sweden 1
Halftime: Hard to believe this USWNT is the favorite to win the Olympic gold. The U.S. women were on the back foot from the very start and were second best for the entire first half and are lucky not to be down by two or three goals. The Swedes are aggressive with their pressing, sharp with their passing and are frankly bossing this game. A disjointed, sloppy USWNT which can’t get anything right needs a sub or two to change the momentum.
45th min: Rose Lavelle heads it off the left post! The USWNT nearly tied it just before the break. Long diagonal ball by Kelley O’Hara and the ball finds Lavelle in stride in the box.
43rd min: Long ball over the top and Blackstenius brings it down beautifully with only the ‘keeper to beat, but she can’t find her footing and misses the chance.
36th min: What a long-distance strike by Jonna Andersson and U.S. ‘keeper Naeher stops the bending ball right on the goal line.
31st min: And the USWNT get a chance to talk it over during a hydration break. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski giving his team a pep talk.
30th min: Another goal-saving tackle by Crystal Dunn on Jakobsson.
26th min: Furious response from the USWNT and Tobin Heath gets a shot off that hits the ‘keeper, but she was offside. Rose Lavelle started that play.
25th min: And there’s the goal by Sweden. Cross from the right and Blackstenius heads home in the six-yard box past Naeher. Sweden rewarded for a dominant start.
23rd min: USWNT really look stunned and can’t seem to recover. Two straight shots by Sweden and Naeher has to dive low to parry the ball away on both occasions.
15th min: What a chance for Sweden! A giveaway by Dunn turns into a shot on goal by Blackstenius and it’s right at Naeher. The Dunn giveaway sums up a very uncharacteristic start from the USA.
14th min: Big stop by U.S. ‘keeper Naeher on a shot by Rolfo that was destined for the low right corner. Another Sweden corner kick, but the USWNT survives.
11th min: A response from the USWNT – header by Alex Morgan and a long-distance shot from Tobin Heath moments later.
8th min: Crystal Dunn with a tremendous tackle in her own box to prevent a point-blank shot on goal. When Sweden attacks, it easily penetrates the U.S. defense.
5th min: Sweden with two straight corner kicks and the high press is working for them. The USWNT is on its heels to start the match.
4th min: The USWNT has a hard time clearing a Sweden set piece in their own box. Finally, a Sweden shot goes wide.
2nd min: The jerseys are a bit different:
The #USWNT are in their all white uniforms, while Sweden have a more highlighter yellow look than they normally have. A reminder that federation crests are not allowed on jerseys during the Olympics, so the USSF logo with 4 stars is replaced by a simple USA. #Tokyo2020
— Stars and Stripes FC (@StarsStripesFC) July 21, 2021
1st min: And we’re off. Sweden with the early spell of possession.
4:28 a.m.: Scene at the stadium before kickoff:
4:25 a.m.: Kickoff’s almost here. Anthems are being played now.
4:01 a.m.: The numbers point to the USA winning, but Sweden has played the Americans tough in recent years:
#USWNT kicks off the Olympics vs Sweden, at 3:30 AM CT on USA and Telemundo!
🇺🇸 U.S. is 13-1-4 in Olympic group games, losing only to Norway in 2008.
🇸🇪 Sweden eliminated the U.S. on PKs at 2016 Olympics.
😴 More notes when I wake up…
— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) July 21, 2021
3:48 a.m.: LA Times reporter Kevin Baxter is on the ground in Tokyo:
12:30 a.m.: Watch this video and you’ll have all the adrenaline you’ll need to get you through the two hours:
To The Best Fans in the World 🇺🇸⚽️,
Thousands of miles & many time zones away, we still feel your energy & your support means everything as we kick off our Olympic journey.
Now get ready, because
HERE 👏 WE 👏 COME! 👏 pic.twitter.com/nmcxIMUYuZ
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) July 21, 2021
12:23 a.m.: First early morning with Olympic soccer. Promise, it won’t be this bad:
USWNT vs. Sweden starting lineups
All eyes are on U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski and his first starting lineup in his first major competition. Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd begin the match on the bench alongside holding midfielder Julie Ertz, who is available as a sub after a long injury layoff.
Meanwhile, the Swedes are coming out in a mirror 4-3-3 formation instead of a five-defender set-up. Defender Magda Eriksson’s surprise absence from the matchday roster seems to be injury related , while Juventus forward Lina Hurtig starts on the bench.
MORE: U.S. women Olympic team roster
USWNT starters (4-3-3, left to right): 1-Alyssa Naeher — 2-Crystal Dunn, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 17-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O’Hara — 3-Samantha Mewis, 9-Lindsey Horan, 16-Rose Lavelle — 11-Christen Press, 13-Alex Morgan, 7-Tobin Heath
USWNT substitutes: 18-Adrianna Franch-GK, 12-Tierna Davidson, 14-Emily Sonnett, 8-Julie Ertz, 6-Kristie Mewis, 10-Carli Lloyd, 15-Megan Rapinoe. Sitting out: 22-Jane Campbell-GK, 20-Casey Krueger, 19-Catarina Macario, 21-Lynn Williams
Sweden starters (4-3-3, left to right): 1-Hedvig Lindahl — 2-Jonna Andersson, 14-Nathalie Bjorn, 13-Amanda Ilestedt, 4-Hanna Glas — 17-Caroline Seger (capt.), 9-Kosovare Asllani, 16-Filippa Angeldal — 18-Fridolina Rolfo, 11-Stina Blackstenius, 10-Sofia Jakobsson
Sweden substitutes: 12-Jennifer Falk-GK, 3-Emma Kullberg, 5-Hanna Bennison, 15-Olivia Schough, 20-Julia Roddar, 7-Madelen Janogy, 8-Lina Hurtig. Sitting out: 22-Zecira Musovic-GK, 6-Magdalena Eriksson, 19-Anna Anvegard, 21-Rebecka Blomqvist
How to watch USA vs. Sweden Olympic soccer
Date: Wednesday, July 21Time: 4:30 a.m. ETTV channel: USA NetworkSpanish-language TV: TelemundoTV replays: NBCSN (8:30 a.m. ET and 6 p.m. ET)Streaming: fuboTV , NBCOlympics.com, TelemundoDeportes.com, NBC Sports app and Telemundo Deportes app (with user authentication)
USA vs. Sweden will air live on USA Network and Telemundo at 4:30 a.m. ET. The match is scheduled to be replayed on NBCSN at 8:30 a.m. ET and 6 p.m. ET Wednesday. NBCSN can be streamed with fuboTV (free 7-day trial) .
MORE: Complete Olympic women’s soccer schedule
All Olympic soccer matches will be streamed in the USA on NBCOlympics.com, TelemundoDeportes.com, the NBC Sports app and the Telemundo Deportes app — all with user authentication.