Shock, tears, and silence ensued for the United States women’s national team once the fact set in that they were out of the 2023 Women’s World Cup following the Round of 16.
After regulation and extra time were completed, the score between the United States and Sweden was still tied 0-0, sending the match to penalty kicks to determine who would move on. Neither side missed any of their first two penalties, but after that, it was pure chaos in Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
Sweden missed their next two kicks and the USWNT made and missed one. Therefore, the USWNT had a chance to come out victorious on their fifth penalty, but the shot was put wide. After being kept alive with that miss, Sweden converted on their next three penalties.
The seventh kick, which became the deciding and last kick, was the most controversial.
USWNT goalie Alyssa Naeher guessed correctly and got her gloves on the shot. However, the ball maintained enough pace to keep moving forward and a second save was needed to barely keep it from crossing the line. At least, that’s what many thought.
The referee went to the video assistant referee (VAR) to confirm whether or not the ball traveled across the line, and after a period of waiting filled with tension and wonder, the goal counted. Sweden broke into celebration while the USWNT was left heartbroken.
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) August 6, 2023
Despite being a game between the first- and third-ranked countries in the world and ending scoreless before penalties, the soccer did not disappoint. In fact, the USWNT dominated the game. They controlled the possession and outshot Sweden 22 to nine. They required 11 saves out of Swedish goalie Zećira Mušović (compared to only one needed by Naehar) but lacked the clinical finishing to get themselves on the scoreboard and left it up to the shootout.
It was a disappointing end to the tournament in any way you think about it for the USWNT. The two-time reigning champions, although underwhelming in the group stage, only gave up one goal in four games. They were more threatening in the final third than their opponents throughout the tournament yet did not score a goal in their last 238 minutes of play.
Postgame, USWNT coach Vlatko Andonowski said, “Unfortunately, soccer can be cruel sometimes.” His team will be forced to live with the consequences of their many missed opportunities.
The Americans had never finished lower than third in a Women’s World Cup.
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