Stina Blackstenius’ brace and Lina Hurtig’s thumping header gave Sweden a deserved victory, with the US appearing to be a shadow of the side that won the World Cup two years ago.
Sweden was undoubtedly the better side from the first to the last whistle and the USWNT, who came to these Olympics as a strong favorite, has a lot to improve on in the coming games against New Zealand and Australia, should it want a fifth gold medal to win .
This historic result for Sweden will give the team confidence that it can go one better than Rio 2016, where it fell to Germany on the last hurdle in the gold medal match.
For the US, the defeat ends a 44-game unbeaten run – 40 wins and four draws – that stretched to January 2019 when it lost 3-1 to France in a friendly.
Sweden beat the US the last time these two teams met on the Olympic podium, coming out on top after a quarter-final penalty shootout in Brazil five years ago.
However, that motivation was barely apparent during the match’s first exchanges at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium – which saw both teams kneel in the empty arena – as Sweden exercised its dominance from the opening whistle.
The Swedes soon got the goal their early game deserved, as Sofia Jakobsson’s cross was brilliantly hit by Blackstenius after 25 minutes.
The US had barely managed to get out of their own half in those first 45 minutes, let alone gain a foothold in the game, with Sweden holding over 60% of the ball.
Blackstenius had a great opportunity just before half-time to double Sweden’s lead, brilliantly controlling a long pass to her chest, but getting the ball just under her feet, allowing American keeper Alyssa Naeher to come out and the opportunity stifled.
However, given the size of the talent in the US squad, it would always be unlikely that Sweden could keep its opponents in check for the entire half. It was Rose Lavelle who equalized, but her header from a long ball in the penalty area hit the outside of the post.
That it was the reigning world champions’ only real chance in the first half was a testament to Sweden’s superiority, the yellow shirts swarming the American players in midfield and giving them no time to relax on the ball.
The only negative from Sweden’s perspective was that it had only managed to get a one-goal lead – would the team regret that debauchery in front of goal?
USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski made two substitutions early in the second half, with the hugely experienced Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz replacing Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis.
Ertz seemed to immediately revive the American team, but just when it looked like the game’s momentum was changing, Sweden doubled its advantage.
This time, Blackstenius picked up the leftovers at the far post after a Swedish corner caused chaos in the American penalty area and poked the ball past Naeher into the roof of the net.
From there, things only got worse for the US team.
After substitute Megan Rapinoe hit the post when she might have scored, Sweden put an exclamation mark next to his performance as Hurtig rose high into the penalty area to take home from Hanna Glas’ cross.
The camera cut to the American bank where a stunned Andonovski sat helplessly on the couch.
He now has plenty to think about ahead of the tough upcoming games against New Zealand and Australia, should the US avoid a shocking early departure.