WORLD CUP: U.S. women lose to Sweden
WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) – The Americans can’t do things the easy way.
Needing only a tie to avoid Brazil in the quarterfinals, the U.S. fell 2-1 to Sweden on Wednesday night, the team’s fourth loss since November and first ever in group play at the World Cup.
“After, what I said to the team is, my glass is half-full,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “Even though we lost, we can come out as a winner if we take a different path. … We really want to play in the final. But we have to play some great games, play some great teams. I really want us to embrace this process. I think the team will get stronger. That’s the plan.
“It’s a little bit different for me to talk about the final,” she added. “That’s what it takes when we take a different road.”
Lisa Dahlkvist converted a penalty and Nilla Fischer scored on a free kick for Sweden, which won Group C and will play Australia on Sunday in Augsburg. Abby Wambach got the U.S. back in the game in the 67th minute with her first goal of the tournament, but as they have all year the Americans squandered too many other chances and now must Brazil on Sunday in Dresden. Brazil was the runner-up to the Americans at the last two Olympics and to Germany at the 2007 World Cup, and is led by five-time FIFA player of the year Marta.
As the final whistle sounded, Sweden’s players rushed onto the field, gathered in a circle and did the dance that’s quickly becoming their tradition. They then took a victory lap around the field, delighting the many Swedish fans in the crowd of 23,468 who whistled and cheered.
“It was one of the better matches,” Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby said. “To get nine points in the group phase, that’s really good.”
The U.S. is a two-time World Cup champion, two-time defending Olympic gold medalist and the No. 1-ranked team. But it’s had a rough few months since being stunned by Mexico in the semifinals of regional World Cup qualifying, needing to beat Italy in a playoff just to get to Germany. The Americans then lost to Sweden in the opener of the Four Nations tournament in January, and dropped their first game to England since 1988.
But they seemed to have regained their mojo in the first two games of the World Cup, scoring five goals and playing with a looseness and joy that hasn’t been seen in recent months.
Still, no offense to North Korea or World Cup newcomer Colombia, the Americans hadn’t seen a team as good as Sweden, either.
“We have great respect for the U.S. team but, at the same time, we know we’re good, too,” Lotta Schelin said.