US knocked out of Women’s World Cup after penalty shootout loss to Sweden.
By Paul Safari
It was tense, the sort of match which causes the stomach to churn, but it is Sweden which progresses to the quarterfinals, stopping the two-time defending champion from achieving a historic three consecutive world titles, with a thrilling penalty shootout victory in Melbourne on Sunday.
The match was decided by the video assistant referee (VAR), with referee Stéphanie Frappart, after reviewing the action, deeming that Lina Hurtig’s penalty had crossed the line despite the US’ Alyssa Naeher getting her hands to the ball and initially appearing to save it.
Sweden’s players celebrated joyously, while there were tears from the US players, their participation ending in the round-of-16, the earliest the US has ever departed a Women’s World Cup.
With the score goalless after 120 minutes of play – 90 minutes of regulation time and 30 minutes of extra-time – the match had to be decided by penalty kicks.
Sweden’s Nathalie Bjorn was the first player to miss from the spot, giving Megan Rapinoe, who has now played her last major tournament for her country, the chance to put the US ahead in the shootout yet Rapinoe – usually the most reliable of penalty takers – missed to give Sweden hope again.
Rebecka Blomqvist of Sweden and the US’ Sofia Smith proceeded to also miss from the spot. With the scores at 4-4, up stepped substitute Kelley O’Hara for the US and her effort hit the crossbar, presenting Hurtig with the chance to win it for her team.