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Sweden Stun Reigning Champions USA in Dramatic Penalty World Cup Exit

Sweden win on penalties and knock out holders USA, who will not be completing their “Three-peat” in Australia and New Zealand as they pack their bags to go home

August 7, 2023, Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia: USA forward MEGAN RAPINOE 15 reacts to losing the 2023 FIFA Womens World Cup Round Of 16 match against Sweden

Reigning champions, the USA, suffered a shocking defeat on penalties against Sweden, marking the end of their Women’s World Cup campaign in Melbourne. The high-octane encounter saw 120 minutes of intense action, dominated by the USA, but an inspired goalkeeping display from Zecira Musovic kept the scoreline goalless.

The drama only intensified during the penalty shootout. Despite three misses from USA players, including their footballing icon Megan Rapinoe, it was a contentious decision during Lina Hurtig‘s penalty that ultimately sealed Sweden’s victory.

USA’s goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher initially appeared to have saved Hurtig’s effort, pushing the ball upwards before clawing it out. However, after a thorough review by the video assistant referee (VAR), the goal was awarded, sparking wild celebrations among the Swedish team.

A “tough moment” for the USWNT

Despite the technology confirming the goal, USA manager Vlatko Andonovski remained unconvinced that the ball had truly crossed the line, highlighting the cruel nature of the game. “It’s a tough moment,” he admitted. “It’s a moment where it’s hard to go through, where you hope it didn’t cross the line. I see pictures, and I still can’t see it now, but it proves how cruel this game can be.”

Throughout the match, the USA was indebted to the exceptional performance of goalkeeper Zecira Musovic, who made a remarkable 11 saves. Despite the American team showing glimpses of the form that secured World Cup victories in 2015 and 2019, they were unable to break the deadlock during regular play.

The penalty shootout proved to be the deciding factor, and as fate would have it, it became the last appearance on the world stage for Megan Rapinoe, one of USA’s footballing icons. With her announcement to retire at the end of the year, Rapinoe’s World Cup journey ended in disappointment.

The defeat marks the USA’s worst performance in the history of the Women’s World Cup, as they had always managed to secure a place in the semi-finals in previous editions.

Ending on “a sick joke” for Megan Rapinoe

It was not the ending Megan Rapinoe had planned. After 17 years of unwavering dedication to the Stars and Stripes, the two-time Women’s World Cup winner found herself in tears as she bid farewell to the global stage for the final time. The USA, defending world champions, suffered a heart-wrenching 5-4 penalty shootout loss to Sweden following a tense last-16 goalless draw in Melbourne.

For Rapinoe, the 202nd appearance for her country, the night turned into what she described as a “dark comedy” and a “sick joke,” such was her dismay. The 38-year-old forward had been a pillar of strength for the team, ranking among the most successful players of her generation. Prior to the tournament, Rapinoe had made the poignant decision to announce her retirement at the end of the season, making this World Cup appearance all the more significant.

As the tension reached its peak on the night, the USA led 3-2 in the penalty shootout. With hopes of extending their campaign still alive, substitute Rapinoe stepped up to take her spot-kick, but the cruel twists of fate had other plans. Her shot missed the target, adding to the agony that followed as Sophia Smith and Kelley O’Hara also failed to convert their penalties, effectively sealing the USA’s unexpected early exit from the tournament.

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