Sweden players celebrate after the victory
Sweden players celebrate after the victory

Tokyo: Four-time Olympic champions the United States suffered a first defeat in 45 matches Wednesday as they lost 3-0 to Sweden in their opening game of the women’s football tournament in Tokyo.

Stina Blackstenius scored twice and Lina Hurtig added a third goal to give 2016 silver medallists Sweden a dream start to their Group G campaign at a Tokyo Stadium devoid of fans due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The US, who go on to play New Zealand and Australia in their next two group games, hadn’t lost since going down 3-1 to France in a friendly in January 2019.

It was just the second loss over 90 minutes for the US at the Olympics. They were beaten in their first game of the 2008 tournament but still went on to win gold in Beijing.

Sweden shattered US hopes in a quarter-final penalty shootout in Rio five years ago, a bitter exit that served as a driving force behind the Americans’ run to a fourth World Cup title in 2019.

US captain Becky Sauerbrunn called the loss in Brazil “one of the worst results" the national team has had at an international tournament.

The US had won 22 of 23 games since Vlatko Andonovski replaced Jill Ellis as coach in October 2019, with a 1-1 draw against the Swedes in April the only blemish.

Andonovski selected 17 of the players from the World Cup-winning squad for his first major tournament, but he elected to start Megan Rapinoe on the bench as Tobin Heath appeared at her fourth Olympics.

Sweden, who reached the World Cup semi-finals two years ago, threatened early and often in a first half where they completely dominated a surprisingly subdued US.

Alyssa Naeher turned behind a sharp effort from Fridolina Rolfo, and Blackstenius should have done much better when shooting right at the US goalkeeper following an ill-advised pass by Crystal Dunn.

Naeher made further saves to deny Kosovare Asllani and Rolfo, but Sweden grabbed a deserved lead on 25 minutes when Blackstenius beat Abby Dahlkemper to Sofia Jakobsson’s cross to steer in a glancing header.

Marta strikes for Brazil

Marta became the first player to score in five straight Olympics and Brazil beat China 5-0.

Marta finished with a pair of goals for Brazil, which is ranked No. 7 in the world. Debinha, Andressa Alves and Beatriz also scored.

A six-time FIFA Player of the Year, Marta has 111 international goals, more than any Brazilian player, male or female. After her goal in the ninth minute, Debinha added another in the 22nd to put Brazil up 2-0

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal