The United States entered the 2023 Women’s World Cup seeking to become the first team to ever three-peat in the event. What was expected to be another display of American dominance in the sport instead ended with a loss in the first game of the knockout round on one of the most heartbreaking moments you will ever see in a game of this magnitude.
Sweden eliminated the United States in penalty kicks, 5-4, after a 0-0 draw in regulation that saw the USWNT blow oh so many chances for a decisive goal. The Americans blew it again in PKs, with Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith, and Kelley O’Hara all missing to leave an opening for the Swedes. Lina Hurtig stepped up for the chance to win the match and blasted a shot to the left side of the net. US keeper Alyssa Naeher got a hand on the ball and appeared to keep it from crossing the line, but video review showed the ball crossed by the smallest possible margin. Watch Sweden’s winning penalty kick here:
After review, the penalty is good and Sweden wins— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 6, 2023
If any part of the ball is over the line, it’s a goal. Sweden scored by a millimeter.
Here’s what Hurtig’s goal looked like on video review.
It doesn’t get any closer than that.
Here’s how the Swedes reacted to seeing the video review of the goal in the locker room:
Bulletin board material for the USWNT— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 6, 2023
Sweden reacts to images of the final penalty after the game ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/dyJYDGMfri
The loss is especially cruel for the U.S. after controlling the action for most of the game. The United States won the possession battle 58 percent to 42 percent. The U.S. out-shot Sweden 22-9. Despite giving what felt like their strongest overall performance of the tournament, the U.S. put themselves in position to lose with a poor showing in the group stage to set up a tough matchup with Sweden.
The MVP for Sweden was goalie Zećira Mušović, who made several incredible saves to keep the Americans scoreless in regulation:
The United States now has to sit with this loss for the next four years. The team will have a strong core in place in 2027 led by Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman. The young players on this team learned valuable lessons through coming up short in this tournament. It doesn’t make the loss any easier to swallow, though. The U.S. dream of winning three straight Women’s World Cups died not by an inch, but by a millimeter.