U.S.-Sweden World Cup Match Preview

This story first appeared in Extra Time, our pop-up newsletter about the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Get it in your inbox by subscribing here.

Swedish Strength

We didn’t expect to see Sweden so soon.

Sweden, the runaway winner of Group G and one of three teams at this 2023 World Cup to finish the group stage with three victories and the full 9 points—England and Japan being the others—face the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) on Sunday morning at 5 a.m. in the Round of 16. The U.S. was quite keen to win its group and avoid Sweden at this stage of the tournament. Sweden’s playing quite well: the Blågult (The Blue and Yellow) had the sort of statement win, a 5-0 crushing of Italy, that would make any team nervous. South Africa, whom the USWNT would have faced if it had beaten Portugal on Aug. 1, rather than play to a listless 0-0 draw, is in the knockout stage for the first time ever. Bayana Bayana, as the South African squad is known, are on a nice, uplifting roll. But compared to Sweden, they’re the weaker opponent. 

Plus, Sweden has humbled the U.S. before. In 2011, Sweden nicked the U.S. 2-1 in Germany, in the group stage. That was the first time the U.S. failed to win its group at a World Cup. (The U.S. did reach the final that year.) At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Sweden stopped the U.S. from earning a fourth straight Olympic gold. “We lost to a bunch of cowards,” then-U.S. keeper Hope Solo, who did not appreciate Sweden’s play-it-safe tactics, said after her team lost out in the penalty shootout. (Solo was suspended for six months for her comments. Sweden’s coach at the time, Pia Sundhage—who previously led the team to the 2011 World Cup final and 2012 Olympic gold medal, with Solo in net—memorably replied: “I don’t give a crap. I’m going to Rio, she’s going home.”) 

More recently, at the 2021 Olympics, Sweden stunned the U.S. 3-0, in their opener. The game signified, at the first major world competition since the 2019 World Cup, that the U.S. was no longer an unquestioned dominant force. Sweden took silver in Tokyo; the U.S. won bronze. 

For many American key players—like Naomi Girma, Sophia Smith, Emily Fox, and Andi Sullivan—this history doesn’t mean much. They’re World Cup rookies who weren’t on that Tokyo Olympic squad. They’ll need to focus on present problems, like Sweden’s corner kick efficiency: the team recorded four corner kick goals. They must also pay attention to Stina Blackstenius, who has hurt the Americans in the past—she scored two goals in that game in Tokyo. The Arsenal striker had one goal in Sweden’s dominant group stage. That’s somewhat scary. She could be due a breakout game. 

The U.S. is still a betting favorite to win Sunday. But at this point, an American victory would still feel like an upset.

Group H Hysteria

The World Cup favorite, the U.S., needed a friendly goal post to advance into the Round of 16.

Germany, a top-four team going into this tournament, wasn’t so lucky. 

The Germans are headed home, after a chaotic conclusion to group stage play on Thursday in Australia. South Korea—which had lost its first two games—scored a shocking early goal in the sixth minute in Brisbane against Germany, to go up 1-0. Germany responded in the 42nd minute, on another Alexandra Popp goal, her fourth of the tournament.  

But as half-time approached of this game and a simultaneous Colombia-Morocco one in Group H, Germany would advance as long as Colombia and Morocco, playing in Perth, stayed even. In that scenario, Colombia would win the group, having won its two previous games. Germany and Morocco, a World Cup debutante, would both have four points, but Germany owned that tie-breaker thanks to its large advantage on goal differential. Germany had crushed Morocco 6-0 back on July 24. 

Morocco, however, would not play ball. In the first half of stoppage time, Morocco scored a goal. Now, at half-time, Germany knew it would need to beat South Korea unless Colombia could at least get that goal back and draw with Morocco. 

Germany attacked in the second half. VAR overturned a Popp goal in the 57th minute. She later hit the crossbar on a header. The game went on to stoppage time, which was supposed to be nine minutes, but took much longer as several South Korean players went down with injuries. Germany’s Sydney Lohmann had two desperate chances: one rolled wide left, the other just high. The game remained deadlocked 1-1. Morocco-Colombia ended in Perth: Morocco held on 1-0. Colombia would do Germany no favors. 

The Moroccan players huddled together on the field to watch the final moments of Germany-South Korea on someone’s electronic device. The players were crying, hands clasped in prayer, hoping South Korea could hold on. Finally, in the 116th minute, the ref blew the whistle to end it in Brisbane. Morocco was in. Back in Perth, Moroccan players and coaches went berserk, hugging, screaming, wiping away rivers of tears.  

Morocco, the first Arab nation to ever qualify for a women’s World Cup, was moving on—months after the men’s team reached the World Cup semis in Qatar. Morocco, ranked No. 72 in the world, is the lowest-ranked team to ever advance to the knockout stage. 

Now, for the first time, three African nations—Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa—made the next round. There was so much chatter, going into this World Cup, about the talent gap between traditional powers like the U.S. and Germany, and upstarts like Morocco and Colombia, closing. How this would be the most competitive World Cup ever.

It has been the most competitive World Cup ever. The results back it all up.

Jamaica Joy

What a scene after Jamaica and Brazil played to a 0-0 draw in Melbourne on Wednesday to send the Reggae Girlz to the knockout stage for the first time in Jamaica’s history. Players collapsed in joyous tears after the final whistle: forward Khadija Shaw was heaving with happiness.

The Reggae Girlz had to rely on a GoFundMe to help pay for the World Cup trip. They’ll be stretching that cash a little longer.

More Joy 

As we discussed in the last edition of Extra Time, a debate has unfolded about how the USWNT responded to its draw with Portugal. Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan were seen dancing after the game: Trinity Rodman smiled and took pictures with fans. Fox Sports commentator and former U.S. World Cup champion Carli Lloyd criticized the reaction: she felt the players should not have been happy after that performance. U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski and others noted that they had a right to enjoy the moment. 

I, for one, had no problem with the Americans expressing some joy—they’ve thrived off it. I also respect Lloyd’s right to express her disdain on TV. That’s what she’s paid to do. 

Loyal Extra Time reader Rose Stepnick weighed in via email. Her astute thoughts, in full:  

Didn’t see any joy. The [U.S.] team is just not working together. Rapinoe looked off balance and pissed. She’s used to everyone playing to her. They aren’t. Not sure if it’s selfishness or for a reason. They are going to miss Rose Lavelle next game – a lot.

Carli may have her finger on something…

Luckily I see plenty of joy elsewhere and am loving real competition. The playing field has leveled out, but I felt that from week one. Rooting for the South African team after seeing their game against the foot taller Swedes. Japan is amazing. Australia – that is JOY!

Round of 16 Viewing Schedule 

The Round of 16 is set. Here’s your schedule (all times ET):

Saturday, August 5, 1 a.m. — Switzerland vs. Spain, Auckland, New Zealand คำพูดจาก เว็บสล็อตใหม่ล่าสุด

Saturday, August 5, 10 p.m. — Netherlands vs South Africa, Sydney, Australia

(Winners of above meet in Quarters) 

Saturday, August 5, 4 a.m. —  Japan vs. Norway, Wellington, New Zealand

Sunday, August 6, 5 a.m. —  Sweden vs. United States, Melbourne, Australia 

(Winners of above meet in Quarters) 

Monday, August 7, 6:30 a.m. — Australia vs. Denmark, Sydney, Australia 

Tuesday, August 8, 7 a.m. — France vs. Morocco, Adelaide, Australia 

(Winners of above meet in Quarters) 

Monday, August 7, 3:30 a.m. – England vs. Nigeria, Brisbane, Australia

Tuesday, August 8, 4 a.m. — Colombia vs. Jamaica, Melbourne, Australia 

(Winners of above meet in Quarters)

Recommended Reading

Since the USWNT’s 0-0 draw with Portugal, plenty has been written and said about why the U.S. hasn’t lived up to expectations at this World Cup so far. A few pieces worth checking out: 

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Is Reeling—and Changing Course Might Be Tough. (WSJ)

“And remember: For all the hysteria of the past 36 hours, the USWNT could very well still advance deep into the 2023 World Cup. Its defense has been solid. Its Expected Goal numbers — a complicated stat that measures chance creation — have been strong. It still hasn’t lost this calendar year; it could continue to survive and advance while playing putrid soccer.” (Yahoo! Sports)

Two-time U.S. World Cup champs Tobin Heath and Christen Press talk everything through. Lots here for casual fans, and die-hards, to take in and learn from. (The RE-CAP Show!) คำพูดจาก 8อันดับเว็บสล็อ


U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski isn’t the only one facing criticism at home. Pia Sundhage of Brazil—who, as previously noted, coached the U.S. to gold at the 2012 London Olympics—is drawing fire after Brazil’s lack of flair contributed to its World Cup exit. (AP)

On a “new era of soccer moms” playing at the World Cup. (New York Times)

Parting Thought

In my experience, Australians are anything but boring. I’ve been in the presence of good-natured Australian sports fans. At the London Olympics, I spent a late night at a hotel with administrators for the Australian Olympic Committee. While most sports bureaucrats are secretive souls, these Australian workers said the quiet part out loud. They freely shared—yes, perhaps after a pop or two—how the country and its athletes went about their business. Why hold back? Australia seemed to have the right attitude. After all, It’s just sports, right? 

Another example of Australian spirit and good humor: the writings of TIME’s own Australia native, Belinda Luscombe. She’s never boring. 

Which makes the prevalence of boringly-named Australian stadium names at this World Cup so strange, to me anyway. The U.S. plays Sweden in its monumental Round of 16 matchup Sunday morning … at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. Colombia and Jamaica, two nations with vibrant fan bases who’ve been enraptured by the performances of their women’s soccer teams will also be piling into… Melbourne Rectangular. Perth Rectangular Stadium hosted group stage games.

Here in the U.S., we’ve got places with cool names, like “The Big House.” 

Why the obsession with shapes? Imagine if in the U.S., the Chicago Cubs didn’t play at Wrigley, but at Chicago Diamond Field? Or, if we’re being geometrically accurate, like our Australian friends, Chicago Kite Field?

Before I bug Belinda about this—any readers from Australia who may have insight on the whole Rectangular thing? Dying to know. I’m at sean.gregory@time.com.

We’ll be waking up early Sunday (5 a.m.!), and breaking down U.S.-Sweden in Extra Time afterwards. Get your “brekky,” as the Aussies call it, and coffee ready. Speak to you then.

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