Sweden upset top-seeded U.S.A. in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.
This was one of those games where the book said neither team would play to win, nor would they play to lose.
The final match of Group C of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup between the United States and Sweden had all the pre-match hallmarks of that greatest of World Cup traditions, the gentleman’s (or women’s) agreement. Both teams had two wins, both had six points and both were already through to the quarterfinals. Normally, that would mean one thing in their third and final match – an entertaining array of passing, a few shots and in the end, a draw.
That’s what the book says. The Swedes said to hell with the book.
Riding a pair of first-half goals, Sweden bent but didn’t break and scored the biggest upset so far in the World Cup as it beat the U.S. 2-1 July 6 in Wolfsburg.
A high level one gaame “I would rank the game as a high level one. I think the game was one of the best of the tournament so far,” said Sweden manager Thomas Dennerby. “This game was not so important concerning the tournament, but for us it was important to win to gain more confidence.”
The U.S. went into the World Cup as the odds-on favorite to win back the world title it last held in 1999. Sweden was winless in four matches against the Americans, who had never lost a group match in the World Cup.
For 16 minutes there was little reason to think any of that would change. The two teams traded scoring opportunities, with U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd hitting a long-range dipping effort in the opening minutes that went just wide. From the restart an inadvertent U.S. back pass gave Lotta Schelin a one-on-one with Hope Solo, but the American goalkeeper made the save.
Everything changed, however, just past the quarter-hour mark. An American defender literally tackled Schelin in the penalty area and Japanese referee Etsuko Fukano awarded Sweden a penalty kick. Lisa Dahlkvist struck the shot and breathed a sigh of relief as it hit the net just past the outstretched hand of Solo.
The Americans had a chance to draw level in the 30th minute when Amy Rodriguez managed to lure Swedish net minder Helvig Lindahl out the net then lobbed the ball over the Swede’s head. The shot caromed off the crossbar and the Swedish defense cleared the danger.
Five minutes later it was 2-0 Sweden. A foul on Josefine Öqvist set up a free kick just outside the penalty area. Nilla Fischer took the shot, which ricocheted off the thigh of Amy La Pielbet and reversed course, whipping past a helpless Solo. Fischer was making her first start in the tournament as she replaced Caroline Seger, who sat out with a yellow card suspension.
Abby Wambach gave the Swedes a scare when she hit a fierce header on goal in the 40th minute, while Lloyd forced Lindahl to make a desperate save on her shot from eight yards.
Second half on the defenseThe second brought more of the same for the Swedes, who crowded on defense to protect their lead. The U.S. dominated possession, but was unable to create much in midfield, relying instead on attempted through ball from the defense to the forwards. Lloyd got the first real chance of the second half when she fired a free kick on goal that Lindahl fumbled but managed to clear off the line.
Wambach finally grabbed a goal back for the Americans at the 67-minute mark when she rose up to head home a Lloyd corner. The goal set up a frantic final 23 minutes as the Americans attacked again and again, only to run into a wall of blue-and-yellow defenders. Kelly O’Hara chad a golden chance to equalize with four minutes left to play, but her volley from 15 yards sailed wide.
When Fukano blew the final whistle, the Swedes went into delirium.
“This is just incredible,” said Dahlkvist, who has two goals in the tournament. “It is so great to win the group and finally get a win against the U.S.”
The win was more than just a confidence booster. By taking the group, Sweden avoids playing Brazil in the quarterfinals and instead faces Australia July 10 in Augsburg. Sweden has never lost to the Aussies. The U.S. must play Brazil, which knocked the Americans out of the tournament in 2007.
“It was a really good game and we performed really well,” said Schelin. “The American team tried to come back but we did really well in defense. We have great respect for the U.S. team but we knew we could beat them. Now we are just focusing on playing well against Australia, and they are a really good team too.”
by Chipp Reid
Sweden celebrates after Lisa Dahlkvist put her team up 1-0 against the U.S. July 6 in Wolfsburg, Germany at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. Bildbyrån photo