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2023 Women's World Cup

Analyzing Vlatko-ball: From Sweden, to Sweden

Photo Copyright Jenna Watson for USA TODAY Sports

Historically, the United States women’s national team has gotten along well with its Swedish counterpart. At the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, the two sides stayed at the same hotel. The American players lent the Swedes their pasta. When the US eventually won the tournament, they returned to the hotel with the word “Congratulations” spelled out in Swedish soccer kits. One of the most successful coaches in recent U.S. history is a Swede: Pia Sundhage.

That special relationship might change, however, after the U.S. endured defeat to Sweden in a second straight major tournament.

On Sunday, after the teams played out a 0-0 draw in the World Cup second round, Sweden won on penalty kicks. As a consequence, the United States suffered its earliest elimination yet. There were American tears, Swedish smiles, ABBA playing in the background. There was a Megan Rapinoe penalty miss, of all things, something the player herself described succinctly as “dark comedy.”

At the last Olympic competition, two years ago in Tokyo, the United States lost 3-0 to the same opposition in their group stage opener. Now, following Sunday’s shootout heartbreak, Vlatko Andonovski’s competitive tenure is bookmarked by losses to Sweden. And, in a way, these two matches offer an incisive summation of his time in charge so far.

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