The United States women’s national team crashed out of the World Cup on Saturday morning, falling to Sweden 5-4 on penalties after a scoreless draw in regular and extra time.
It is the first ever time the USWNT failed to reach the semifinals at the World Cup.
And it happened in truly heartbreaking fashion.
In regular and extra time, the U.S. dominated, playing their most fluid game of the tournament. They bested Sweden in most every statistical category including possession (58%) and shots on target (11), but could not put the ball in the back of the net. Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic was a brick wall between the posts and made 11 saves over 120 minutes.
Sweden tallied just one shot on target in the game, and the score read nil-nil as the referee blew her whistle at the end of extra time.
Penalty shootouts had been mostly a positive memory for USWNT at the World Cup, until Saturday.
Of course, there’s the famous image from 1999 when Brandi Chastain ripped her jersey off after scoring the World Cup-winning penalty against China. The U.S. again won in penalty kicks in the 2011 quarterfinals, this time over Brazil, but lost the final to Japan in the same manner.
12 years later, the U.S. took part in penalties at the World Cup for a fourth time.
Each of the first five penalties – three from the U.S. and two from Sweden - were converted.
Sweden’s Nathalie Bjorn then flared one over the bar, putting the U.S. up 3-2 and in the driver’s seat.
Megan Rapinoe – one of the greatest players in USWNT history – stepped up next.
The U.S. legend did what no one expected, blazing her right-footed shot beyond the post and over the crossbar. The 38-year-old smiled in agony as she trotted back to midfield.
The shootout was far from over, though, and Rebecka Blomqvist’s subsequent miss meant the U.S. were again one goal away from advancing.
Sophia Smith was unable to provide the finishing touch and sent her spot kick wide of the right post, just like Rapinoe.
The next three penalties – two from Sweden and the other from U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher – were scored.
Two-time World Cup winner Kelley O’Hara struck the post in the seventh round of penalties, meaning Sweden were a make away eliminating the Americans.
Lina Hurtig’s strike was saved by Naeher, but the ball’s momentum curried it back toward the goal line despite being batted away by the U.S. keeper.
Naeher swatted it away for a second time, but after 30 seconds of review, it was determined the ball crossed the line and was a goal.
As Sweden’s players and coaches stormed the field in celebration, the USWNT’s hopes for a World Cup three-peat were officially gone.
Continue reading to recap how the U.S. reached the knockout stages at the 2023 Women's World Cup.
The United States women limped into the knockout stage of the Women's World Cup with a scoreless draw against Portugal on Tuesday morning. It's just the second time in nine World Cups the USWNT failed to win its group.
On paper, the United States women did what they needed to do to reach the knockout stage at the 2023 Women's World Cup.
A 3-0 victory over Vietnam followed by consecutive draws to the Netherlands and Portugal earned the USWNT second place in Group E and a spot in the Round of 16.
But the performances have been nowhere near that of a tournament favorite and two-time defending champion. Media criticism - notably from former USWNT captain Carli Lloyd - rained in after players were captured dancing and smiling after Tuesday's 0-0 draw with Portugal.
"I have never witnessed something like that," Lloyd said on FOX's postgame coverage. "... the player of the match was the post. you're lucky to not be going home right now."
Portugal's Ana Capeta went through on goal and struck the post in the 92nd minute. Had the ball gone in, Portugal would have won the match and the USWNT eliminated from the tournament.
Instead, the U.S. moves on with hopes of a WWC three-peat still alive. But do the Americans have what it takes to lift the trophy in Australia?