Sweden moves on to semis after ousting U.S. women in penalty shootout
BRASILIA, Brazil -- The tour of Brazil is over. And Rio de Janeiro didn't make the itinerary.
For the first time since women's soccer was added to the Olympics 20 years ago, the United States won't play for a gold medal. It won't play for any medal. The Americans are instead heading home after losing to Sweden 4-3 in the first penalty shootout in Olympic women's soccer history. That followed a 1-1 stalemate over 120 minutes against the resilient Swedes and former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage.
Alex Morgan scored the goal that brought the United States level late in the second half, but her penalty kick to open the shootout was saved by keeper Hedvig Lindahl, and Christen Press put her attempt over the bar in the fifth round, leaving the shootout score tied 3-3 with Sweden's fifth-round kick to come.
After a lengthy delay before that kick, so goalkeeper Hope Solo could change her gloves, Sweden's Lisa Dahlkvist went left when Solo guessed right. So ended the bid for a fourth consecutive gold medal by the United States.
Perhaps Sweden is too experienced an international side -- and Sundhage too good a coach -- to call the result in Brasilia a stunning upset, but it is nonetheless shocking to see the reigning World Cup and Olympic champion, unbeaten in 2016, out before medals are at stake.
More to come from Brasilia, but here are three observations at the final whistle.
1. Year of the counter
We saw it from Leicester City when that team stunned the soccer world by winning not a sprint of a tournament but the long marathon of the English Premier League season. We saw it from the Icelandic men's team in the Euros. And we saw it with little more than an hour elapsed in Brasilia. If a team is organized, committed and precise, it doesn't need much possession to win the game. It just needs to make the most of a chance. So while there will be plenty to dissect in the autopsy of a defeat, first give Sweden all the credit it is due.
The plan was no surprise. U.S. coach Jill Ellis talked about it the day before the game. Sundhage made no secret of it, either. But whether level early, ahead or holding on for dear life late, Sweden looked nothing like the team that was outclassed earlier in this tournament.
A lot of teams park the bus against the United States. Few do it so courageously.
2. For the love of technology
Two wrongs don't make a right, but they can produce a penalty shootout. In quick succession in the waning minutes of overtime, both the United States and Sweden had goals waved off -- incorrectly by every available replay -- as a result of offside calls.
Neither call looked close; the flag on the ball that sneaked between two U.S. defenders to Lotta Schelin was particularly egregious. If the quality of officiating remains a question mark for the sport, and it does by most accounts, then wouldn't it be a perfect place to welcome technology?
3. No chance to peak at the right time
The United States wasn't exceptionally unlucky when it came to injuries during and leading up to the Olympics. It had its share of issues, but so does every team in a tournament like this.
At the same time, it seemed obvious Friday that the slow trickle of issues did take a toll. The U.S. women weren't sharp on set pieces for much of the game, making it easy to wonder what might have been different with a healthy Megan Rapinoe.
Beaten on the run that produced the goal, Julie Johnston looked rusty at times after sitting out the past two games with a groin injury.
It isn't an excuse. The United States had chance after chance to win this game with the players it had on the field. But it also wasn't a team peaking at the right time.