Tokyo Olympics: Sweden end USWNT’s two-year unbeaten run

Stina Blackstenius celebrates with teammates.
Stina Blackstenius of Sweden celebrates with teammates during their victory against USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 21, 2021 in Tokyo. (Photo by Daniel Stiller)

A fearless display from Sweden shocked the reigning world champions. The bronze medalist from France back in 2019 put on a dominant show from the first whistle and did not stop until the final whistle went off.

Sweden, without high profiled Magdalena Eriksson, showed that they are less vulnerable without the Chelsea captain than Chelsea themselves have been lately. And Sweden did it when it mattered the most.

When the teams presented their respective starting XI’s, the biggest surprise from either end was Eriksson’s absence. Just before kick-off, the Swedish FA released an official statement on the matter:

“All the players in the squad have been training a 100 % the days ahead of this match. We however feel that Magdalena needs another couple of days of full training to get into the squad to perform 100 % with this heavy schedule. Therefore we have taken the decision to leave her out of today’s squad in our opener vs the US,” said Sweden’s team doctor Mats Börjesson.

How the teams lined up

Sweden vs. the United States starting lineups.

The lineup from the US with Tobin Heath, Christen Press and Alex Morgan up front could shake any defender in the world. Supported by playmakers and progressive ball-playing experts like Lindsay Horan, Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis, we all probably thought that Sweden could face a tough evening in Tokyo while we drank our morning coffee back home in Europe.

Story of the game

Although the main statistics from the game were quite even, the show Sweden put on out on the pitch told another story.

The US, seemed a bit taken aback by the fact that Sweden dominated the start of the game. Sweden pressed high to keep the US from building up from the back, and went aggressively after the second balls to gain back possession when losing it.

The first half was 45 minutes of great Swedish dominance. Their 6-1 in corners and 7-2 in shooting tells the story. A mobile and sacrificial Sweden created chances over and over again.

Sweden’s first goal came deservedly after 25 minutes. Hanna Glas passed the ball to Sofia Jakobsson who from the right flank aimed a crossed at the front post. Stina Blackstenius made a well-timed run and scored with a brilliant header.

Defensively, every US initiative to attack was taken down effectively. Their only major chance came shortly before half time when Lavelle’s header hit one of Lindahl’s posts. Otherwise, it was a frustrated US team that were disallowed by Sweden.

Sweden continued with the same intensity and energy in the second half. This enthusiastic style of play was rewarded again in the 54th minute with Blackstenius’ second goal of the day. The goal came off of a corner, where Amanda Ilestedt headed the ball towards the far post. From there, Blackstenius was able to strike the rebound beyond Alyssa Naeher in goal.

Stina Blackstenius celebrates her goal.
Stina Blackstenius of Sweden celebrates after scoring against USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 21, 2021 in Tokyo. (Photo by Daniel Stiller)

With barely a half an hour left, Lina Hurtig came on in replace of Blackstenius. It did not take Hurtig long to remind the US defence of her presence. In the 72nd minute, she put her head to a perfect cross from Glas and made it 3-0 for Sweden.

Sweden controlled the rest of the match and saw out the 3-0 scoreline. The US, who had barely conceded any goals in recent years, suffered their first multi-goal loss during regular playing time since 2008. The result also ended the US’s 44-match unbeaten streak.

For Sweden, head coach Peter Gerhardsson was happy after the match. During his post-match interview, Gerhardsson said:

“A very good performance. We talked about it before and I think we were better than the US in the counterattack and also on set pieces. There is a courage in my players that I love. And a responsibility out there where they coach each other very well, so I was pretty calm.”

Players of the match

The display from Sweden could easily render in naming the whole team as players of the match. However, Stina Blackstenius having found her old goalscoring self also makes a great candidate for that award. After all, her performance was very reminiscent of her days with Linköping FC in 2015/16.

But, in all honesty, it was the Swedish midfield as a unit that made it able for the defense and the attack to perform. Caroline Seger, Kosovare Asllani and Filippa Angeldahl all made Lindsay Horan, Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis silent and practically invisible during long parts of this 90 minute Swedish show.

The Swedish back four also deserve to be mentioned. Solid, stable and well in unison, they steered the wheels from the back. Fans of Bayern Münich, Paris Saint-Germain, Everton and Chelsea should be very proud of their defenders today.

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