The USWNT advanced to the knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup after a nervy scoreless draw against Portugal. While pundits fire criticism toward the squad for underperforming, the United States maintains its goal of winning a third straight Women’s World Cup.
However, the next game for the United States may be harder than both the Netherlands and Portugal. Again, each of those only yielded draws. This game, and all those remaining in the knockout stage, are must-win scenarios.
That opponent is Sweden, something of a rival for the USWNT. The two have met in each of the last five Women’s World Cups before 2023. The United States won the first two matchups in 2003 and 2007. Then, In the 2011 Women’s World Cup group stage, Sweden defeated the United States, 2-1. Four years later, the two played out a scoreless draw in the group stage. Finally, at the World Cup in France in 2019, the USWNT defeated the Swedes in the group stage, 2-0.
However, this is the first time the two are playing in the knockout stage at a Women’s World Cup. The last time the two played was in the group stage at the Olympics. There, Sweden smashed the United States, 3-0. That loss ended the USWNT’s 44-game unbeaten streak. Therefore, Sweden can match up well against the United States.
USWNT second-place finish is bad news given next World Cup opponent
Had the United States topped its group with a win over either the Netherlands or Portugal, the outlook in the round of 16 is much easier. The Netherlands, which did finish as group winners, is playing South Africa. South Africa did only lose to Sweden after a 90th-minute goal from Amanda Ilestedt. Still, if you put any stock in the FIFA World Rankings, there is a 51-spot gap between Sweden and South Africa. Sweden ranks No. 3, making it the second-highest seed still alive in the competition after Germany fell in the group stage.
However, the bad news gets worse for the fans of the United States. Not only would the game against South Africa have been perhaps easier, but the kick-off time against Sweden is also brutal.
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Sunday’s game between the United States Women’s National Team and Sweden is set for 5 a.m. ET. Coverage on FOX starts an hour beforehand, which is why they are advertising the game for 4 a.m. ET. By comparison, if the USWNT was playing in that game against South Africa, it would be a much kinder kick-off for American viewers. That game between the Netherlands and South Africa kicks off on Saturday, Aug. 5 at 10 p.m. ET. The two USWNT games in that time slot pulled strong audiences despite the late start.
Even if the USWNT can advance past Sweden, the quarterfinal kick-off would be less than ideal. Kick-off for that tie is 3:30 a.m. ET.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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