by Chipp Reid

The new-look Swedish women’s national soccer team exorcised a pair of ghosts at the Algarve Cup in Portugal as it beat Germany and the United States to win the title of third most prestigious tournament in international women’s football.
The Blue and Yellow needed penalties to take the final as they played to a 1-1 draw with the Americans in the final before claiming the win 5-4 in a shootout.
Head coach Thomas Dennerby continued his infusion of new blood into the side as only Victoria Svensson remained from the core group of players that took Sweden to the finals of the 2001 European Championship and the 2003 Women’s World Cup. The Swedes lost to Germany in both finals.
Newcomers Kosovare Aslani, Anna Paulson, Madeleine Edlund, Stina Segerstrom and Charlotta Rohlin all cemented their positions on the A team as they led the Blue and Yellow to a perfect record in the Algarve Cup. Sweden opened with a dull, scoreless draw against China before beating Finland and Norway to reach the semifinals. The Blue and Yellow knocked off Germany 3-2 on March 9 to advance to the March 11 final against the Americans.
The top-ranked U.S. women went into the final using more than a few pages from the Swedish style book as head coach Pia Sundhage, a former Swedish international, injected a sense of technique and finesse into the American game. Still, Sweden held a 1-0 lead as time ran out before Shannon Boxx sent the game into a shootout.
Boxx’s goal came after an intense second half of searching for a tying goal to answer Lotta Schelin’s tally in the 18th minute.
Carli Lloyd slipped past a player in midfield with a nice cut move and played a perfect ball into the left side of the penalty area to the streaking Natasha Kai. The Hawaiian ran the ball down at the end line but was knocked down by a retreating Swedish defender. From a sitting position, Kai managed to knock the ball back to Megan Rapinoe in the left side of the penalty area. Rapinoe struck a hard cross on the ground through the goal mouth to Boxx at the far post where she slammed it first-time into the net from two yards away.
The dramatic goal, the USA’s second 90th-minute score of the tournament, led to an even more dramatic penalty kick shootout.
Sweden’s Louise Fors started her country with a hard shot into the lower left corner. Boxx answered with a perfect blast into the upper right corner. Lisa Dahlkvist also found the lower left corner, setting the stage for Rapinoe, whose driven shot was almost directly at Swedish goalkeeper Kristin Hammarstrøm and she batted the ball away.
Linda Sembrandt hit her shot off the left post and in, followed by Lloyd tucking her chance away into the left corner and making it 3-2 Sweden after three shots each. The USA then got new life as Anna Paulson lofted Sweden’s fourth shot over the bar. The Americans didn’t take advantage as Christie Rampone clanged her shot off the inside of the left post and behind the Swedish ‘keeper, but it didn’t cross the goal line.
Schelin then stepped to the spot on her team’s fifth kick with a chance to win the match, but Solo acrobatically pushed her shot away with a full-extension dive to left post. The miss meant that late substitute Tina DiMartino had to convert the USA’s fifth kick to send the shootout into sudden death. DiMartino’s shot seemed saved by Hammarstrøm with a dive to the left post, which would have ended the game, but somehow the ball squeezed through the goalkeeper’s hands and rolled across the goal line.
Emelie Ölander then blasted her shot over the goal and incredibly, Sweden had missed its fourth, fifth and sixth kicks, giving 88th minute sub Angie Woznuk a chance to win it for the USA. Hammarstrøm guessed correctly and pushed Woznuk’s shot away with a dive to the left post.
Stine Segerstrom then finished smartly into the lower left corner on her team’s seventh penalty and Heather Mitts cracked her shot off the left post and out to give Sweden the victory.