Wolfsburg, Germany, July 07: Lisa Dahlkvist converted a penalty and Nilla Fischer scored from a deflected free kick Wednesday as Sweden won 2-1 to beat the Americans for the first time at the World Cup.
Abby Wambach's first goal of the tournament in the 67th minute helped the Americans back in the game. But just as they have all year, they squandered many other chances to score.
It's the fourth loss since November for the world's No. 1 team after going more than two years without a defeat, and their second to Sweden this year. It's only Sweden's fifth victory against the U.S. in 30 games, and first in four World Cup meetings.
As Group C winner, Sweden will play Australia the quarterfinals Sunday in Augsburg. The Americans will face Brazil, whom they beat in the last two Olympic finals, in Dresden.
“It was one of the better matches,” Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby said. “To get nine points in the group phrase, that's really good.”
As the final whistle sounded, Sweden's players rushed onto the field, gathered in a circle and began dancing. They then took a victory lap around the field, delighting the many Swedish fans in the crowd of 23,468 who whistled and cheered.
Both teams were already through to the quarterfinals. But, with the edge in goal differential, the Americans needed only a draw to avoid meeting Brazil. Led by Marta, the five-time FIFA player of the year, Brazil was runner-up to the U.S. at the 2008 and 2004 Olympics, and finished second to Germany at the 2007 World Cup.
But the Americans have been inconsistent all year, and this game was no different.
“We think the road to the World Cup's top podium is going to be difficult,” Wambach said. “That's kind of been our journey so far, so why change things now?”
With German Chancellor Angela Merkel watching with the Germany squad, Sweden put the U.S. on its heels early after Amy LePeilbet tripped Lotta Schelin in the box in the 14th minute to earn a penalty kick. Dahlkvist took the penalty, curling it into the left side of the net. Hope Solo dived at full stretch, but the ball was just beyond her fingertips.
“I was thinking that she's smaller than me now in this moment,” Dahlkvist said. “She's afraid of me.”
The Swedes gathered for a group hug in front of the goal while Swedish ‘keeper Hedvig Lindahl waved her hands at the other end, urging the Swedish fans to cheer even louder.
The goal snapped Solo's scoreless streak at 796 minutes, the second longest in U.S. history. It also ended a run of eight matches without conceding a goal, dating back to March 2010.
Sloppy defending cost the Americans again in the 35th, when Rachel Buehler was whistled for dragging down Therese Sjogran about 25 yards out. Fischer, filling in as captain with Caroline Seger suspended, hammered a free kick into LePeilbet's thigh. Solo, already moving to her left, was caught off-guard and could do nothing to stop the ball from bouncing into the net.
“It was very unfortunate,” Solo said. “I felt like I didn't have a chance to make a play on them, and that's frustrating.”
The U.S. pulled a goal back in the 67th when Wambach headed—actually, it was more like shouldered—in a corner from Lauren Cheney. It was the first goal of the tournament for Wambach and her 10th overall at the World Cup, second only to the 12 scored by Michelle Akers.
The Americans had plenty of chances to equalize, but struggled once again to finish. Lindahl punched away a cross from Lauren Cheney to Wambach at the far post in the 29th minute, and Amy Rodriguez's chip over Lindahl hit the crossbar three minutes later. Lindahl punched away a hard shot by Megan Rapinoe in the 54th after Rapinoe neatly sidestepped Sara Thunebro, and World Cup rookie Kelly O'Hara missed a wide-open net from about 8 yards in the 86th.
“After, what I said to the team is, my glass is half-full,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “Even though we lost, we can come out as a winner if we take a different path. ... We really want to play in the final. But we have to play some great games, play some great teams. I really want us to embrace this process. I think the team will get stronger. That's the plan.” AP