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“We could have been a little more patient, especially in the attacking third,” Sundhage said. “We were too eager to get in the box.”

Despite all that, the Americans had a whopping 20-9 advantage in shots, including a 6-5 edge in shots on goal. The U.S. kept Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl so busy in the second half she barely had time to catch her breath.

“I never once thought we were going to lose, not until the final whistle blew,” Cheney said. “If the effort is there, we’re all talented soccer players. It’s going to come together for us.”

If it does, the U.S. might yet be part of blockbuster final after all.

“I think it’s a really cool challenge for us to face Brazil,” Abby Wambach said. “And then maybe England or France. Then, obviously putting Germany into the final, some people might call that a fairytale ending.”