Jill Ellis said the United States wouldn’t duck France in the knockout stages, and they echoed that sentiment on the field, downing Sweden 2-0 and emphatically winning Group F. The win means they will earn a Round of 16 matchup with Spain, and would likely meet the hosts in the quarterfinals if both teams hold strong in their first knockout game.
The meeting between the two teams was the sixth in Women’s World Cup play, including a fifth straight, both records. While Sweden had its moments, the game was controlled by the favorites and was never really in doubt. The second goal came in controversial fashion, but it had been coming as the U.S. came out firing and scored early in both halves.
It took no time for the United States to get on the board just three minutes in as Megan Rapinoe mishit a corner and sent in a worm burner that somehow squirted through the Swedish defense and fell to Lindsay Horan on the doorstep who was free on a late charge to tap in the opening goal.
After the opener, the U.S. continued to dominate attacking possession, and Crystal Dunn had a pair of half-chances, putting both over the bar. Alex Morgan then got on the end of a Sam Mewis ball and looked for an audacious chip but just missed the far post.
Sweden built into the game by the 20th minute and had a golden opportunity as Kosovare Asllani found space down the right half of the box but her shot was weak and right at Alyssa Naeher. Towards the end of the first half Naeher was tested again, diving to punch away a Sweden cross from the right. Otherwise, the first half was all the United States, looking to break Sweden down to put the game away.
After the break, Jill Ellis made a change to bring on Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan, the latter of whom appeared slightly dinged up and was brought off as a precaution. The appearance for Lloyd is her 277th cap for the United States, passing Mia Hamm for third all-time with the country.
The U.S. came out of the break as strong as they started the game, and Tobin Heath put the United States 2-0 up from a very tight angle. The goal was reviewed by VAR after replay appeared to show Carli Lloyd offside on the play as she looked to receive the cross which eventually rebounded to Heath, but the referee allowed the goal to stand despite Lloyd’s influence on the play. Also controversially, the goal was later changed by FIFA to an own-goal by Sweden defender Jonna Anderson who was defending Heath on the play.
The goal woke up Sweden who tested Nahaer on two separate occasions before the hour mark, but the U.S. goalkeeper held firm. A free-kick from the left edge of the U.S. box on 70 minutes came close to the near post but no Sweden attacker could get a head to the delivery.
Lloyd had a chance to extend both the lead and her goal streak with a chance in the 90th minute but on a breakaway ball from Mewis she fired her wide-open chance straight at Hedvig Lindahl who stayed strong to make the save. With the win, the United States wins the group with a perfect 3-0 record and a stunning +18 goal differential. They move on to the knockout stage to play Spain in the Round of 16, with a potential meeting with France looming in the quarterfinals.