In an intense and unpredictable series of penalties, Lina Hurtig sealed the victory for Sweden with a perfectly executed spot-kick. However, the US goalkeeper, Alyssa Naeher, almost denied her, making a remarkable save on the goal line. The decisive moment had to be confirmed by VAR to ascertain the legitimacy of the goal.
The four-time champion Americans had an opportunity to secure the win earlier in the shootout, but Sophia Smith’s shot soared over the crossbar, leaving the US team devastated.
The true hero of the match was Sweden’s goalkeeper, Zecira Musovic, whose outstanding performance kept her team in the game throughout. Musovic made an astounding 11 saves during the match, frustrating the American attackers at every turn, and her exceptional efforts ultimately proved pivotal in securing Sweden’s triumphant victory.
“We’re so happy right now,” Sweden captain Magda Eriksson said in a radio interview. “I don’t know how we managed to stay in this game.
“We didn’t play our best game, but in some way we showed we’re hard-headed, we showed heart, we never give up. We took it to extra time, we took it to penalties and we managed to win.”
It was the first exit before the semi-finals in nine World Cups for the Americans, who had arrived at the tournament looking for an unprecedented third consecutive title.
US coach Vlatko Andonovski said the team had been practising penalties for the last nine months.
“I know we were criticised for the way we played … I think we came out today and were all about the grit, the resilience,” he said.
“Unfortunately, soccer can be cruel sometimes. For it to go to penalties and to end in that fashion, with the confusion at the end.”
Often starved of possession, the Swedes did not have a shot on goal until the 85th minute when substitute Sofia Jakobsson danced into the area, only to shoot straight at keeper Alyssa Naeher.
The talismanic Megan Rapinoe came off the bench to replace forward Alex Morgan in the ninth minute of extra time but was unable to create a winner for the Americans.
Renowned for having a dead-eye as a penalty shooter, Rapinoe struck the fourth kick for the US over the bar after Sweden’s Nathalie Bjorn had also blasted over.
Naeher saved Rebecka Blomqvist’s fourth shot for the Swedes but Smith’s failed effort kept the Scandinavians in it.
After Naeher and Magdalena Eriksson converted their spot-kicks, Kelley Ohara sent her shot pinging off the right post, allowing Hurtig to step up and send the champions out of the tournament.
Winners of the last two World Cups in France and Canada, the US slumped to their quickest exit, having made the semi-finals or better in all eight previous editions.
(With Reuters Inputs)