The U.S. women’s national team completes first-round play Thursday against Sweden in Le Havre. Both teams are 2-0-0 and have clinched a spot in the round of 16, but the top spot out of Group F remains at stake. With a victory or draw Thursday against their old rival, the Americans would win the group and play Group B runner-up Spain on Monday in Reims. Should they lose, they would play Group E runner-up Canada on Monday in Paris. Follow for live updates.
How to watch | Pregame reading
By Jacob Bogage in Washington
50th minute: Goal, USA, then VAR
Tobin Heath toyed with the Swedish left back all through the first half, and she finally has struck a blow. Heath corralled a cross that spun long, then took her defender one-on-one toward the six-yard box, then smacked a shot through the near side that caught the keeper by surprise. The play went to VAR, however, to determine if Carli Lloyd was offside.
Carli Lloyd has subbed in for Alex Morgan to begin the second half. Morgan had a few solid scoring chances, but couldn’t complete them, and appeared to take a couple of knocks. Lloyd scored twice against Chile in Sunday’s match.
Halftime: U.S. 1, Sweden 0
The U.S. offense appeared primed to pick up where it left off in its first two World Cup matches. Not even three minutes into Thursday’s match against Sweden, Lindsey Horan flicked in a corner kick by Megan Rapinoe to give the Americans a 1-0 lead.
But minutes later, the grind that is Sweden’s defense took hold. This third match is not like the others.
The Americans leads their rival by that single goal after 45 minutes. The Yankees were undoubtedly the aggressor, possessing the ball 66 percent of the time, completing 266 passes and firing 12 shots, three of them on net. But the Swedes earned some counterattacking opportunities, exposing rifts in the U.S. defense before frittering away promising chances. American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was pressed into her first decisive moments of the tournament, but none were too challenging.
29th minute: Heath with a nutmeg
Tobin Heath showed off a bit of what makes her one of the most skilled forwards in the world in winning a corner for the Americans.
24th minute: U.S. on the good foot
The U.S.’s offense picked up where it left off against Chile. After a goal in the game’s opening minutes, the Americans already have five shots, three of them on target. They’ve also already earned three corners. But Sweden’s pressure in its attacking half has given the U.S. some concerns. Alyssa Naeher has been active in goal directing traffic among the back four.
U.S. strike is fastest at World Cup
3rd minute: Goal, USA
The Americans strike early. After some persistent pressure in the 18-yard box to open the match, Megan Rapinoe earned a corner, and on the cross, Lindsey Horan slid through the defense to flick a shot past the Swedish keeper.
And we’re off!
The U.S. is looking to even the score after a disappointment against Sweden in the 2016 Olympics, and secure the top seed coming out of Group F.
U.S. lineup announced
The U.S. lineup looks much like it did for the opening match vs. Thailand, with plenty of firepower ready to come off the bench. Alex Morgan will wear the captain’s badge at striker. Carli Lloyd, who scored twice against Chile, could sub in late in the match for another scoring punch.
Both the United States and Sweden will advance to the Women’s World Cup knockout stage regardless of the result of Thursday’s final group-stage match. So why is it important? Two reasons.
The first is seeding for a potential championship run. One of these teams will win Group F and face Spain, the world’s 13th-ranked team, in the round of 16, followed by the prospect of France, the world’s No. 4 team, in the quarterfinals. The other team will be Group F’s runner-up and face either No. 5 Canada or No. 8 Netherlands, and then likely No. 2 Germany. The easier path is in the eye of the beholder. It might be nice to stay away from Germany, which won the Olympic gold medal in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. It also might be nice to avoid host France, considered one of the tournament favorites.
And yet the Americans have rejected the idea of easing up.
“For us to throw a game and not want to win right before a knockout round,” defender Crystal Dunn said, “is crazy.”
As center back Abby Dalhkemper added, “It’s in our team’s DNA to want to win.”
Bragging rights are the second reason. Simply, the Americans and the Swedes don’t care for one another (on the pitch). In Rio, Sweden knocked out the United States in the quarterfinals by playing conservatively on offense in an effort to push the game to a shootout. It worked, and Sweden won on penalties. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” for employing the tactic. Sweden’s coach responded, “I don’t give a crap.”
Players on both sides leading up to this match have had plenty of time to refresh their memories.
“Just that feeling, it still hasn’t left,” American midfielder Allie Long said.
“They don’t have that mental advantage they had before,” Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl said of the Americans.
The U.S. is far ahead on goal differential and would win the group with a victory or a draw against Sweden.
What you need to know
When: Thursday, 3 p.m. Eastern.
Where: Stade Oceane, Le Havre.
TV: Fox, Telemundo.
Streaming: Fox Sports.
Sweden’s rivalry with the United States simmers heading into World Cup match
Every single word leading up to Thursday’s match has been scrutinized, and there seems to be tension bubbling beneath. “Although it was such an upsetting feeling, I feel like this team needed that,” Long said of its 2016 loss. “You’re going to learn more in your failures than in your successes and I think that we needed that to kind of shape us into this powerful, united team.” (Read more)
U.S. soccer trashes any talk of tanking vs. Sweden
The idea the Americans would take into consideration potential matchups in the knockout stage is far-fetched. Their intended message: Bring on all comers. In describing the competitive nature of her squad, which has won eight straight and has not conceded a goal in the past six, Coach Jill Ellis said, “I struggled to tell my team not to tackle each other in training the day before” a game. (Read more)
U.S. goalie Alyssa Naeher should face first real World Cup test vs. Sweden
The knock on the world’s top-ranked team is Naeher’s lack of experience at the World Cup or Olympics. Given the ease of victories against Thailand and Chile — and her need to make three routine saves — some might snicker and say she still hasn’t played in the World Cup. That should change against Sweden. (Read more)
On Women’s World Cup rosters, the global impact of Title IX is clear
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Carli Lloyd and the U.S. women golf-clap back at critics of their celebrations
Mindful of the controversy that engulfed the U.S. team after it repeatedly and joyfully celebrated goal after goal after goal in a 13-0 shellacking of Thailand last week, Lloyd and her teammates exchanged hugs and congratulations after the team’s first goal against Chile. But then Lloyd and Lindsey Horan did something else — and it sent a message to all of their critics. (Read more)
Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle are best friends, roommates and now, World Cup goal-scorers
Pugh and Lavelle, both goal scorers against Thailand, are teammates not just for this French odyssey but with the Washington Spirit, the National Women’s Soccer League organization based outside the nation’s capital. They share an apartment in Rockville, Md., with another player and are roommates on the Paris leg of the group stage. (Read more)
Alex Morgan is the face of U.S. soccer and now its golden boot
Long before she blistered the nets Tuesday night with five goals, Alex Morgan had taken a leading role in the run-up to the Women’s World Cup with her voice and presence away from the soccer field. She had become one of the strongest and most eloquent advocates for gender equality within both the U.S. program and global circles. As one of the world’s most recognized female athletes, she had appeared in TV spots and magazine covers, both in uniform and bikini. With nearly 10 million combined followers on Twitter and Instagram, her life and career are open books. On Tuesday, Morgan’s full attention turned to soccer. (Read more)
The U.S. World Cup team’s greatest challenge: Rising European powers
Even if the 2019 U.S. Women’s World Cup team is as formidable as its victorious predecessors in 1991, 1999 and 2015, its road to the tournament’s final weekend is likely to be far more difficult, given the rise of women’s soccer in Europe. (Read more)