MELBOURNE–Sweden beat the United States 5-4 on penalties to knock the defending champions out of the Women’s World Cup after the teams were locked at 0-0 at the end of extra time on Sunday.
In a madcap shootout, Lina Hurtig struck the winning spot-kick, though U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher parried the ball on the line and the result needed to be confirmed by VAR.
Sophia Smith had had the chance to win the match for the four-time champions Americans but blasted the ball over the bar.
Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic emerged as the hero, having kept the Scandinavians in the match, making 11 saves before the shootout to deny the Americans.
“We’re so happy right now,” Sweden captain Magda Eriksson said in a radio interview. “I don’t know how we managed to stay in this game.
“We didn’t play our best game, but in some way we showed we’re hard-headed, we showed heart, we never give up. We took it to extra time, we took it to penalties and we managed to win.”
It was the first exit before the semi-finals in nine World Cups for the Americans, who had arrived at the tournament looking for an unprecedented third consecutive title.
U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said the team had been practicing penalties for the last nine months.
“I know we were criticized for the way we played … I think we came out today and were all about the grit, the resilience,” he said.
“Unfortunately, soccer can be cruel sometimes. For it to go to penalties and to end in that fashion, with the confusion at the end.”
Often starved of possession, the Swedes did not have a shot on goal until the 85th minute when substitute Sofia Jakobsson danced into the area, only to shoot straight at keeper Alyssa Naeher.
The talismanic Megan Rapinoe came off the bench to replace forward Alex Morgan in the ninth minute of extra time but was unable to create a winner for the Americans.
Renowned for having a dead-eye as a penalty shooter, Rapinoe struck the fourth kick for the U.S. over the bar after Sweden’s Nathalie Bjorn had also blasted over.
Naeher saved Rebecka Blomqvist’s fourth shot for the Swedes but Smith’s failed effort kept the Scandinavians in it.
After Naeher and Magdalena Eriksson converted their spot-kicks, Kelley Ohara sent her shot pinging off the right post, allowing Hurtig to step up and send the champions out of the tournament.
Winners of the last two World Cups in France and Canada, the U.S. slumped to their quickest exit, having made the semi-finals or better in all eight previous editions.
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