- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The U.S. women’s soccer team’s opening game at the Olympics didn’t go according to plan, with Sweden running away with a 3-0 victory Wednesday to snap the U.S.’ 44-match winning streak.

The U.S. entered as heavy favorites for a gold medal, and Wednesday’s result doesn’t rule a run for a fifth gold medal out. But Sweden — the same team that knocked the Americans out of the 2016 Olympics — delivered the U.S.’s first loss since January 2019.

The 3-0 defeat Wednesday is the U.S.’ second-ever loss in regulation at the Olympics, and the it’s the most one-sided defeat in a major tournament since losing to Brazil 4-0 in the 2007 World Cup. Stina Blackstenius scored twice for Sweden before Lina Hurtig added the third in the 72nd minute.

“We got our a—— kicked, didn’t we?” U.S. winger Megan Rapinoe said, according to The New York Times. “I thought we were a little tight, a little nervous, just doing dumb stuff.”

The U.S. has two more games to play in the group stage, coming up Saturday against New Zealand and Tuesday against Australia. Sweden now leads Group G with the victory, but the top two teams in the group advance to the knockout round of the competition.

“I think ultimately as an athlete you go through ups and downs, and this is a hard result, but it’s the nature of a tough tournament,” U.S. forward Christen Press said, per ESPN. “It wasn’t going to be easy. We weren’t going to breeze through six games no matter what. So here we are.”

America has the chance to become the first team to win an Olympic gold medal after winning a World Cup, which the team did in 2019.

Wednesday’s result, though, was an inauspicious beginning to such aspirations. But the U.S. has been here before. In 2008, the team lost its first match of the Olympics, that one a 2-0 contest against Norway. The U.S. still went on to win a gold medal last year.

“It’s obvious we put ourselves in a big hole, but we’re the only ones who can get ourselves out of it,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said, via ESPN. “It’s not going to be easy. We’ve got to get positive results in the next two games, but the fact there is still a chance [means] I know this team is not going to give up.”

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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