The USWNT made the wrong kind of history in their opening match at the Tokyo Olympics. By losing 3-0 to Sweden on Wednesday, the USWNT’s 44 match unbeaten streak came to an abrupt end.
The U.S. women’s soccer team was stunned by Sweden, losing 3-0, in its opening match of the 2020 Olympic Games.
The loss by the USWNT snapped a 44-match unbeaten streak. pic.twitter.com/7FoZ7WNP7W
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 21, 2021
As my colleague Heidi Thomas previously pointed out, the USWNT entered the tournament as overwhelming favorites to pick up their fifth Olympic gold medal. Therefore, this was a rather shocking result for the team currently sitting atop the FIFA World Rankings.
Hopefully, this shock will serve as a wakeup call rather than an omen of things to come for the Americans. The loss was disappointing, but the USWNT is still firmly in control of their own destiny.
Let’s take a look at the road ahead for the USWNT in Tokyo.
Accompanying the USA and Sweden in the tournament’s Group G are Australia and New Zealand. The ninth ranked Aussies beat the 22nd ranked Kiwis in their Wednesday opener. This means that Australia joins Sweden at the top of the group with three points, while the USA and New Zealand are at the bottom with zero points.
The USWNT returns to the pitch on Saturday against New Zealand. Their third and final group stage game comes on Tuesday against Australia.
In order to guarantee automatic qualification out of their group, the United States must finish in one of the top two positions. Victories against Australia and New Zealand would see them hit that target regardless of how the rest of the group plays out. A win and a draw or a win and a loss would leave them in contention depending on other results. Two losses would see the USWNT bow out in the group stage for the first time at an Olympic games.
If the USWNT fails to finish first or second in their group, they could also qualify by being one of the two best third place teams. Four points would almost certainly be enough to achieve this, while three points just might get the job done.
Given that the USWNT can still finish in any spot in Group G, it is difficult to predict what the knockout rounds would look like. However, we do know that the three group winners and three runners up will be joined by two third place teams in the quarterfinals.
If the United States manages to win their group, they would face the qualifying third place team from Group E or F. A second place finish would earn the USWNT a matchup with the winner of Group F. Advancing via the third place qualification would see the USA face off against the top team from Group E.
At the end of the day, pretty much everything is still up for grabs in this tournament. The opening game does not decide the result of an Olympic tournament, no matter how ugly the loss is.
With two group games remaining, the USWNT needs to learn their lessons from the Sweden game and kick things into gear.
If they do so, the USA still has complete control over whether or not they achieve their goal of winning yet another gold medal.
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– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)
Featured image courtesy of @USWNT.