The most awaited group stage match in the Women’s World Cup between the United States and Sweden on Friday ended in a goalless draw.
The United States could score but were unlucky. Abby Wambach’s header in the 72nd minute was diverted way above the crossbar by Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
The United States needed a single win to book their spot in the knockout round as they aim to win the world cup title for the third time, but first since 1999. The Americans reached the finals four years ago in Germany but they were denied the world title as they lost to Japan on penalty kicks.
The United States, ranked No. 2 in the world, has one more group stage match, on Tuesday in Vancouver, British Columbia, against Nigeria. Sweden heads to Edmonton, Alberta, for its final group match with Australia. The month long tournament, with an expanded field of 24 teams, is being played across six Canadian cities.
The U.S. leads the Group D standings with four points, following a 3-1 victory over No. 10 Australia in the opener. Sweden was surprised in its opener by No. 33 Nigeria, which erased a 2-0 deficit at the half for a 3-all tie.
Earlier Friday the Matildas defeated Nigeria 2-0.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis tinkered with her lineup for the match against Sweden, starting 22-year old Morgan Brian while Wambach was on the bench.
Wambach did give the U.S. an immediate boost after entering in the 68th minute, but Lindahl kept the match scoreless. Liddahl was named the player of the match.
Some five minutes after Wambach’s chance, Caroline Seger’s hard shot from far out was saved by defender Meghan Klingenberg, who deflected the ball to the crossbar. Goal-line technology was used to make sure the ball never crossed the line on its descent.
The United States had a good chance in the 34th minute when Ali Krieger charged into the box but her shot to the far post went wide. Shortly after Hope Solo punched away Therese Sjogran’s corner kick into a crowded box, Megan Rapinoe’s free kick in the 39th minute sailed well over the goal.
Lindahl came up with her first big save of the match when she leaped to pop Carli Lloyd’s shot up and over the bar early in the second half.
Solo leaped to stop Sjogran’s hard shot from far out in the 54th minute but it sailed over her fingertips and over the bar.
Sundhage was head coach of the United States for five years, guiding the team to two Olympic gold medals and the World Cup final in Germany. It was the first time the Americans had advanced to the final since winning it all in 1999.
Sundhage left after the 2012 London Games and returned home to coach her native Sweden’s national team.
Adding to the buildup for the match, one of the most anticipated of the group stage, was a story about Sundhage earlier in the week in foreign media. In it, Sundhage was noted as saying that Lloyd was a challenge to coach and she suggested she wouldn’t start Wambach at this point in the popular veteran’s career. She said Solo was one of the most challenging players she’d coached, “especially when it comes to trouble.”
She talked about those statements before the match, saying the interview occurred back in April and she certainly was not trying to taunt the U.S. team. She called Solo “a piece of work,” but went on to also call her the “the best goalkeeper in the world.” She also said she would start Wambach on Friday night.