The final group stage match for USWNT against a strong Sweden side will kickoff Thursday at 3 PM from Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France. Head Coach Jill Scott and her team will look to continue their dominating ways as they look to win Group F ahead of the knockout stage.
A quick glance through the Group F table will show a tie for first in terms of win-loss record. But a closer look illustrates the two sides aren’t nearly as equal.
Sweden, a consistent top team globally, are clearly the underdog in this match-up. Despite a +6 goal differential, they lack the offensive firepower the USWNT have showcased. With a +16 goal differential, the USWNT are quite literally playing at another level. They’ll look to solidify their hot start in hopes of beginning a deep run to a World Cup final.
Sweden haven’t lost since April 6th when they fell to Germany 2-1 in a pre-World Cup friendly. Since then, they’ve earned four straight wins and three clean sheets. They would be entering the match against USWNT with an impressive 360+ minute shutout streak but Thailand ruined that party with a 91st minute stoppage time goal to end Sweden’s last match.
Elin Rubensson, Kosovare Asllani, and team captain Caroline Seger will most likely be the pivotal players for Sweden. Asllani has the most goals of any player on the current roster with 34 and she earned back-to-back player of the match awards following Sweden’s wins against Chile and Thailand. For a nation that’s reached the knockout stage every World Cup since its inception, Sweden will look to leap forward into the round of 16 with a massive result against the USWNT.
The hype surrounding this match-up is real. Both nations have squared off 38 times. Their most recent match-up took place in early June 2017 when Rose Lavelle’s second half goal lifted her side to a 1-0 USWNT victory. The two ally nations also met in 2015 during the group stage of the Winnipeg World Cup. That match ended in a scoreless draw. The USWNT has a 3-1-1 advantage against Sweden all-time in World Cup group play.
But perhaps the most important match all-time between these two sides is the infamous quarterfinal showdown at the 2016 Olympics. Sweden pulled an upset victory in penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw. Perhaps they can find some similar magic Thursday afternoon.
However, this USWNT is different. They’ve improved. They’ve aged while also getting younger. They’ve found their stride so to speak. The domination they’ve displayed since their lone loss of 2019 in late January against France is certainly no fluke. They haven’t lost in 11 consecutive matches and are currently winners of eight straight.
To be even more persuasive, the USWNT haven’t surrendered a goal since March 2nd. Their first two matches in World Cup play were heavily convincing wins. First, the record breaking 13-0 win over Thailand in which Alex Morgan scored a casual five, the first of which came just 12 minutes into the match. Most recently, Chile fell to the USWNT 3-0 thanks to a first half brace from Carli Lloyd.
Numbers aside, players like Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz have been instrumental in the team’s ability to remain focused and organized on the field at all times. Earlier this week Lloyd was quoted as saying she’s never been more mentally focused. It’s safe to say her mental clarity has rubbed off significantly on the rest of the group.
Look for Sweden in the early stages of the match to try and knock the USWNT back on their heels a bit. They’ll aim to to gain an upper-foot early in hopes of disrupting any rhythm Lloyd and her teammates try to establish. All in all, the USWNT don’t necessarily require a victory against Sweden. They only need to avoid losing. However, dangerous things can happen when teams play not to lose. For US soccer fans, they’ll hope Ertz and company continue soaring high into the knockout stage.
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Mandatory Credit: FIFA.com