Sweden Triumphs Over USA 5-4 in Penalties at Women’s World Cup 2023



Key Points

  • The United States, four-time champions of the Women’s World Cup, faced their earliest exit in the tournament’s history, bowing out in the round of 16 against Sweden on penalty kicks.
  • A heart-wrenching penalty shootout sealed the fate of the American team, as they lost 5-4, despite putting up their best game of the tournament against Sweden.
  • Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith, and Kelley O’Hara’s missed penalty kicks proved to be a turning point, while Lina Hurtig secured the victory for Sweden.
  • The emotional aftermath saw tears and disappointment among the American players, with Megan Rapinoe expressing her disbelief at the outcome.
  • Controversy arose as U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher disputed the validity of a crucial penalty kick, but VAR confirmed Sweden’s win.
  • U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski praised his team’s resilience and bravery, despite the heartbreak of the defeat.
  • The retirement of Megan Rapinoe, a legend and Golden Boot winner of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, marked the end of an era for the American team.
  • Sweden advances to the quarterfinals to face Japan, aiming to secure their first major global tournament victory.
  • Despite the loss, the American team’s legacy remains intact, and hopes for redemption in future World Cups continue to shine.

An Unprecedented Exit

In a shocking turn of events, the United States, four-time champions of the Women’s World Cup, suffered their earliest exit ever from the tournament in the round of 16. The match, played at Melbourne, Australia, saw the reigning two-time champions being ousted by Sweden on penalty kicks.


A Devastating Shootout

The American team, vying for an unparalleled third consecutive title, faced a heartbreaking defeat as they lost the penalty shootout 5-4. What seemed like their best game of the tournament, a hard-fought scoreless draw against Sweden in regulation and extra time, ultimately led to their downfall. Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith, and Kelley O’Hara faltered with their penalty kicks, while Lina Hurtig sealed the deal for Sweden.

Fridolina Rolfo of Sweden celebrates her team’s victory.
Fridolina Rolfo of Sweden celebrates her team’s victory. CREDIT:GETTY

Tears and Disappointment 😢

The anguish of the defeat was palpable as emotions ran high among the American players. Megan Rapinoe, fighting back tears, expressed her feelings, deeming the situation a cruel twist of fate. Despite their valiant efforts, the shootout took an unexpected turn, leaving the American side in disbelief.

Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson consoles Naomi Girma of the US.
Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson consoles Naomi Girma of the US. CREDIT:REUTERS
Sophia Smith of USA is consoled by Lindsey Horan.
Sophia Smith of USA is consoled by Lindsey Horan. CREDIT:GETTY
Megan Rapinoe and Kristie Mewis of USA show dejection after the team’s defeat.
Megan Rapinoe and Kristie Mewis of USA show dejection after the team’s defeat. CREDIT:GETTY

The Inches That Defined Destiny

Controversy ensued as U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher contested the validity of Hurtig’s successful penalty kick. However, VAR ruled in favor of Sweden, solidifying their victory. The stadium resonated with the celebratory notes of Abba’s “Dancing Queen” as the U.S. players grappled with the bitter reality of their defeat.

Lina Hurtig and teammates celebrate after their victory.
Lina Hurtig and teammates celebrate after their victory. CREDIT:AP

Commendable Performance Amidst Heartache

While the loss weighed heavily on the American team, there were moments of resilience and grit that couldn’t be overlooked. U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who had a commendable performance throughout the tournament, expressed pride in the team’s fighting spirit and their pursuit of a complete team performance.

Lina Hurtig and team Sweden celebrate after defeating the USA in penalty shootout.
Lina Hurtig and team Sweden celebrate after defeating the USA in penalty shootout. CREDIT:GETTY

A Glimpse of Greatness

Amidst the heartache, Sweden’s goalkeeper Zecira Musovic emerged as a formidable force, making a staggering 11 saves and denying the U.S. a coveted spot in the quarterfinals. The American team, known for their previous successes, faced an uncharacteristic early exit, marking a significant shift in their journey.


The Cruelty of Soccer’s Beauty ⚽

U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski acknowledged the criticism his team had faced earlier in the tournament. However, he lauded the team’s bravery and resolve displayed in their final match against Sweden. Andonovski recognized the harsh realities of soccer, where brilliance and heartbreak often coexist.


A Bitter Déjà Vu 🔄

This wasn’t the first time the United States had faced the pressure of extra time and penalties in a World Cup. Their past encounters in similar circumstances include the 2011 final against Japan and a quarterfinal match against Brazil in the same year. The unpredictable nature of penalty shootouts had decided their fate before.

Sweden and USA head into penalty shootout.
Sweden and USA head into penalty shootout. CREDIT:REUTERS

Sweden’s Triumph and Future 🏆

Sweden, the conquerors of this thrilling match, advanced to the quarterfinals to face Japan. The Swedes, despite their consistent presence on the global stage, had never clinched a major international tournament. With their eyes set on victory, they aimed to rewrite their history.


Farewell to a Legend 🌟

The match marked the end of an era as it signaled the retirement of Megan Rapinoe, the Golden Boot winner of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Having played a significant role in the team’s success, Rapinoe’s final moments on the field were met with mixed emotions. Her departure marked the end of an illustrious career and left a void in the American lineup.


A Rollercoaster of Emotions 🎢

As the dust settled and the reality sunk in, the American team acknowledged the emotional rollercoaster that is soccer. Captain Alex Morgan encapsulated the sentiment, acknowledging the team’s dominance on the field but recognizing that the highs and lows of the sport often defy expectations.

Sweden’s Zecira Musovic makes a save from Alex Morgan.
Sweden’s Zecira Musovic makes a save from Alex Morgan. CREDIT:REUTERS

A Gritty Journey

The U.S. team’s journey in the tournament was marked by challenges, with a mere four goals scored in three group-stage matches. Their survival against Portugal, newcomers to the tournament, was a close call, ending in a tense 0-0 draw. The team’s transformation against Sweden showcased their determination to leave a mark despite the eventual heartbreak.


The Hope for Redemption

Despite the crushing loss, the future held a glimmer of hope for the U.S. team. While the defeat stung, the resilience and quality that defined their play were expected to carry forward. The American team’s legacy remained intact, setting the stage for a future World Cup where they could strive for redemption.


The United States’ heartbreaking penalty shootout loss to Sweden in the Women’s World Cup round of 16 concludes their campaign in the tournament. Despite their best efforts and an improved performance against Sweden, the U.S. team fell short when it came down to penalties. As Sweden rejoices in their victory and moves ahead to the quarterfinals, the United States must reflect on their journey and regroup for future competitions.