The USWNT has not played well thus far at the Women’s World Cup. In fact, the Americans are backing into the knockout rounds. This year was the first time the USWNT had failed to win at least two group stage games.

Because of this they finished as the runners-up in their group. By finishing as the runners-up in Group E, they have to face the winners of Group G. The Group G winners are one of the few teams that have historically been able to go toe-to-toe with the USWNT. In the Round of 16, the USWNT will be facing Sweden.

Historically bad group stage

It’s not just that the USWNT didn’t win their group. It’s that they turned in the worst group stage performance of any USWNT at a Women’s World Cup ever. They won just one game and amassed a mere five points.

First off was a 3-0 win over tournament debutante’s Vietnam. They followed that up with a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands, in which manager Vlatko Andonovski only made one substitution the entire game. Their final group stage game was against another tournament debutante in Portugal. This was arguably the worst US performance of the tournament as with everything on the line, the Portuguese were the superior team and probably should have won the game in stoppage time but for Alyssa Naeher’s post.

Following the game, rather than pause for some introspection and wonder how they scraped through to the knockout stage by the skin of their teeth, the American players instead engaged in celebratory dancing and photo opportunities. This caught the ire of USWNT legend, and current Fox Sports analyst Carli Lloyd, who expressed surprise and frustration that the US seemed so thrilled by doing almost less than the bare minimum.

And has long been the case with USWNT players when media outlets stop singing their praises, they engaged in a war of words. Andonovski spent the bulk of his postgame press conference on it and captain Lindsey Horan fired back as well. It’s safe to say that all is not well with the Americans backing into the knockout rounds.

Sweden is toughest team yet

The Swedes will be the toughest team that Americans have yet faced at this tournament. Historically, they have proven quite capable of matching the Americans. Sweden beat the US at the 2011 Women’s World Cup and then drew them at the 2015 Women’s World Cup. On top of that, Sweden also beat the US at the 2016 Rio Olympics and at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

At this tournament, the Swedes have looked like the team to beat, being one of only three teams to top their group with wins in every game (the other two being Japan and England). To open the tournament, they survived against a surprise South African side, winning in the 90th minute. They followed that up with a comprehensive 5-0 win over Italy and then a 2-0 win over Argentina.

Manager Peter Gerhardsson has been in the post since 2017 (when he took over from former USWNT boss Pia Sundhage). The squad he has called in for this tournament is loaded with both experience and goal scoring. The only position that could be a question mark is goalkeeper where neither of their two goalkeepers who have played at this tournament (Zecira Musovic and Jennifer Falk) have reached 20 caps. The players the US should be on the lookout for is Sofia Jakobsson who has 23 goals in 145 (and plays her club soccer for NWSL side San Diego Wave).

Kickoff and viewing

The USWNT game against Sweden is set for 5am ET kickoff. It will air on FOX in English and in Spanish on Telemundo and Peacock.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Bildbyran