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  • Writer's pictureEmma Treptow

A Historic Rivalry: United States vs Sweden in Major Tournaments

The United States and Sweden are set to face off in the Round of 16 of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The two teams have a rivalry that goes back to the very first FIFA Women's World Cup in 1991, and this is set to be yet another incredible chapter in the story. Let’s look back at the games played between the two sides in major tournaments.

2020 Tokyo Olympics Group Stage: 3-0 Sweden

Sweden and the United States were drawn into the same group at the Tokyo Olympics, five years after Sweden knocked out the United States on penalties in Rio. In a game played at 4 AM EST, the Swedes dominated the States, with a 3-0 win to open the group stage.

Becky Sauerbrunn battles for the ball in the header in group stage game against Sweden in 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Photo courtesy of @uswnt /Instagram

The goals were scored by Stina Blackstenius in the 25’ and 54’, as well as Lina Hurtig in the 72’. This game was the beginning of a shockingly difficult Olympics for the United States. The U.S. struggled to create real chances in this game, something incredibly similar to what fans are seeing at the 2023 World Cup.

2019 World Cup Group Stage: 2-0 United States

It wouldn’t be a World Cup for the Americans without the Swedes, and 2019 was no different. This time, it was the last game of the group stage, and it would determine the winner of the group. This game ended in favor of the United States, with a 2-0 win after an early goal from Lindsey Horan in the third minute. The cushion goal was a Tobin Heath strike that turned into an own goal from Jonna Andersson after a large deflection.

2016 Rio Olympics Quarterfinals: 1(4)- 1(3) Sweden

This game is arguably the most infamous of any on this list because of both the result and the off-the-field drama that occurred after the game. The United States won their group over France but Sweden only just barely scraped through to the group stage, after finishing third in their group and advancing as the second-ranked third-place team. The two teams battled to a 1-1 draw, with Blackstenius scoring the opening goal of the game in the 61’ and Alex Morgan responding for the States in the 77’.

Carli Lloyd dribbles the ball away from Caroline Seger in the quarterfinal of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo courtesy of @uswnt /Instagram

The game stayed scoreless through the remainder of regulation and extra time, sending it to penalty kicks. Morgan went first for the USWNT, and her spot-kick was saved by Hedving Lindahl. Sweden made their first two kicks before Hope Solo stepped up and saved Linda Sembrant’s penalty. The United States had scored their following three kicks until Christen Press stepped up and unfortunately missed. Lisa Dahlkvist scored Sweden’s fifth penalty to send them to the semifinals. After this game, Hope Solo called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” for their defensive play throughout the game. This caused a six-month suspension for Solo, who ultimately never returned to the national team for a number of reasons.

2015 World Cup Group Stage: 0-0 draw

In yet another World Cup group stage, Sweden stood in the way of the United States in the 2015 World Cup’s “Group of Death,” consisting of the US, Sweden, Australia, and Nigeria. This game ended 0-0, but there was still one heroic moment.

Meghan Klingenberg on the near post, moments before making a goalline save to keep the scoreline 0-0. Photo courtesy of US Soccer

In the 77th minute, Sweden took a corner kick that Caroline Seger nearly scored had it not been for Meghan Klingenberg. Klingenberg was positioned on the near post for the corner and stayed on the line, as an extra line of support. This was the game-changing moment as she headed Seger’s volley up and off the crossbar. The United States were then able to clear the ball and the danger was gone. But without Klingenberg in that position, the group stage would’ve likely ended very differently.

2011 World Cup Group Stage: 2-1 Sweden

In another group-deciding game, the United States faced Sweden in 2011 while both teams were on six points, after beating North Korea and Colombia. Despite both being qualified for the knockout stages, this game was important for the group standings. Unfortunately for the States, the Swedes were able to get the best of them. Dahlkvist scored the opening goal in the 16’ while an own goal from Amy LePeilbet in the 35’ gave Sweden a 2-0 lead at the half. Abby Wambach scored 22 minutes into the second half but the team was unable to make a full comeback.

2007 World Cup Group Stage: 2-0 United States

In the third edition of the United States vs Sweden in the group stage of the World Cup, the United States took a 2-0 win with a brace from Wambach.

Abby Wambach after scoring her second goal against Sweden in the 2007 World Cup. Photo courtesy of US Soccer

This result was a large part of Sweden’s elimination from this tournament as they finished with four points, tied with North Korea, but the Swedes had a -1 goal differential due to the 2-0 loss to the United States.

2003 World Cup Group Stage: 3-1 United States

It was another opening group stage game between the US and Sweden, in the 2003 World Cup’s “Group of Death.” With the United States, Sweden, Nigeria, and North Korea, this was by no means an easy group at the time, and every point was going to count. The United States were able to go up 2-0 by halftime with goals from Kristen Lilly and Cindy Parlow. Victoria Svensson scored in the 58’ but the Swedes were unable to make a comeback as Shannon Boxx put the nail in the coffin in the 78th minute, with the game-sealing game.

1996 Atlanta Olympics Group Stage: 2-1 United States

A sold-out Citrus Bowl packed in to watch the United States beat Sweden in their second-ever meeting in a major tournament in the debut of women’s soccer in the Olympic Games. The United States and Sweden were in a group with China and Denmark, and this 2-1 win for the Americans proved to be incredibly important in their advancing to the knockout stages. Tisha Venturini scored the opening goal for the United States in the 15th minute. No more goals were scored until Shannon MacMillan scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 62’. An American own goal gave the Swedes their only goal of the game.

1991 World Cup Group Stage: 3-2 United States

In the very first edition of the United States vs Sweden in the group stage of the World Cup, there was no shortage of goals. The United States had a 1-0 lead going into halftime with a goal from Carin Jennings five minutes before the half ended. She doubled their lead with a goal four minutes into the second half before Mia Hamm opened her World Cup scoring account in the 62’. The Swedes battled back with goals in the 65’ from Lena Videkull and in the 71’ from Ingrid Johansson. This game ended up being the difference maker as to who won the group and set us up for many group-stage matches to come.

Although the United States historically have had the better of Sweden, in more recent major tournaments, the Swedes have shown their upper hand. These two teams have played other friendlies with the all-time record being 23W-12D-7L in favor of the United States.

The newest chapter of the United States vs Sweden will be on August 6, 2023, at 5 AM EST in the Round of 16 in the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. This game can be watched on FOX in the United States.


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