World Cup title race blown wide open as USA exit in round of 16

Sweden's Lina Hurtig celebrates with teammates
Sweden's Lina Hurtig and teammates celebrate their win over the USA during the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup round of 16 football match (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

In perhaps the biggest twist yet, reigning champions USA are heading home from the World Cup after being knocked out in the round of 16 by Sweden. After neither side could break the deadlock in regular or extra time, a nail-biting penalty shootout commenced and the Swedes edged their way into the next round.

The Netherlands also secured their place in the quarter-finals after beating South Africa, who will be proud of recording their best finish at a World Cup. Let’s take a look at how the action unfolded on Sunday.

Netherlands 2-0 South Africa

A 2-0 victory over South Africa saw the Netherlands through to the World Cup quarter-finals. Goals from Jill Roord and Lineth Beerensteyn put Andries Jonker’s side comfortably through into the last eight. Despite dominating the possession, the Netherlands will look to tighten up their defense, with South Africa managing seven shots on target.

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The Netherlands will face Spain in the first quarter-final, which is due to be played on Friday. For South Africa, their second World Cup has now come to an end. Reaching the round of 16 for the first time in their history, Banyana Banyana will take away plenty of positives. 

Sweden (5) 0-0 (4) USA

In a week of giant slayings, the reigning champions were knocked out of their ninth World Cup. Despite Vlatko Andonovski’s side dominating for much of the match, the tie remained goalless with penalties required to separate the two teams. With Lina Hurtig’s penalty initially ruled to have not crossed the line, VAR was called into action. Ultimately, goal-line technology allowed the goal with the defending champions crashing out of the tournament. 

The win saw Sweden through into the quarter-finals where a meeting with Japan awaits. With the Swedes managing just one shot on target throughout the game, Peter Gerhardsson’s side will look to improve on their finishing ahead of a difficult match. Japan’s defensive organisation and resilience will certainly be a tough match for them and they must come prepared.

For the USA, their hopes of securing a third successive World Cup have come to an end. Megan Rapinoe bows out of her final tournament before she retires from professional football at the end of the season.

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