The USWNT could have won their group with a tie or win vs. Sweden. This would have set up a Quarterfinal showdown with Australia. Instead, the Americans struggled on the back line much like the Men did vs. Mexico in the Gold Cup final. While it wasn't quite as bad a showing as the US men had, the women suffered their second loss in 2011 to a very good Swedish side. Sweden by far is the most talented team the US women have faced thus far. And, they definitely showed it Wednesday afternoon (or night if you live in Germany). Now, the Americans task just got a whole lot taller as they face a tough Brazilian side on Sunday. Although Brazil started slowly, they began to look like themselves in the 2nd half of their previous game. Needless to say, the US will need to bring their A game to have a chance to move to the Semifinals. Join me after the break for a quick recap...
Sweden 2:1 USA - All goals /group C, Women's World Cup 2011
Both teams started quickly out of the gate. Sweden looked very good early, but the US would get the better of the early scoring chances. Carli Lloyd has the best earliest look, pulverizing the ball from 30 yards out wide of the post. Shortly thereafter, Hope Solo would face her first test. A ball bounced out to Lotta Schelin of Sweden, who was put through on a 1-1 vs. Solo. At the last second, Hope made a beautiful kick save to preserve a 0-0 scoreline. The US would have another good look in the 13th minute, but Abby Wambach's left footed shot was handled by Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl.
Sweden would take a shocking 1-0 in the 16th. Lotta Schelin was taken down in the box for a penalty by Amy LePeilbet, who got a yellow card for her efforts. It could have been worse had the referee determined LePeilbet was the last defender and shown red instead. Hope Solo guessed correctly as Lisa Dahlkvist took the shot, but the ball was just past her outstretched hands to give Sweden a 1-0 lead. This goal ended Hope's shutout streak at 797 minutes. That's pretty good huh?
The US nearly answered when Abby Wambach dropped a pretty ball to Lauren Cheney, whose rocket shot was off target. Amy Rodriguez lofted a beautiful chip shot in the 32nd minute, but it agonizingly deflected off the top of the crossbar. Sweden would then taking a shocking 2-0 after an ill timed and unnecessary foul on the part of the US in the 35th minute. A free kick from about 25 yards out didn't look to trouble Solo until US defender Amy LePeilbet deflected the shot with her thigh, which unfortunately deflected into the corner of the US goal. There is nothing that could have been done at that point.
The US could not get a goal back, and would go into the half in a bit of a crisis mode. They came out hungry in the 2nd half, pushing play and trying to mimic the US men and come from behind. Although the US had good looks, it took until the 67th minute to tally a score. Abby Wambach would collect a corner kick from Lauren Cheney, and then promptly put it in the back of the net to pull back a goal. This got the US fired up, and many fans, including myself, felt a second would come. US definitely enjoyed the run of play, and it seemed just a matter of time.
Ultimately, it wasn't to be, as the US began playing long, lob balls late, hoping for a breakaway or fortuitous bounce. It did not come and the final whistle sounded to hand Group C to Sweden. The US will face Brazil on Sunday with kickoff set for 10 AM CST. The game will be carried on ESPN, ESPN3.com, and Galavision. Had the US won, Americans would have been looking at a 6 AM start time rather than 10 AM. Although I would rather have the earlier start time against a lesser opponent, the US needs to rebound because it's do or die now. And they have the task of doing that against one of the best teams in the world. Make sure you show your support for the US women Sunday however you can.