By Lady Williamson
The knockout rounds are here! Having advanced out of Group E at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team will travel from New Zealand to Australia for its upcoming Round of 16 matchup against longtime rivals Sweden. The teams will square off on August 6 (7 p.m. AET/5 a.m. ET on FOX, Telemundo, Universo and Peacock) at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Melbourne/Naarm in what will be the seventh meeting all-time between the teams at the Women’s World Cup but the first ever in the knockout rounds.
Get ready for the Round of 16 with Five Things to Know about Sweden
SWEDES TOP GROUP G
Sweden advanced to the knockout rounds as the winners of Group G, its fourth consecutive Women’s World Cup advancing out of the group and eighth overall in nine World Cup appearances. Like the USA, Sweden played the entirety of the group stage in New Zealand, playing two matches in Wellington/Te Whanganui-a-tara and one in Hamilton/Kirikiriroa.
Sweden opened the group stage in somewhat nail-biting fashion, falling behind to South Africa 1-0 after a goal from Banyana Banyana in the 48th minute. Forward Fridolina Roflo equalized for Sweden in the 68th minute and defender Amanda Ilestedt headed in the game-winner in the 90th minute off a corner kick, making Sweden the first team to win a game this World Cup after conceding first.
Ilestedt continued her goal-scoring form in Sweden’s second group stage match, scoring twice – both goals once again coming off corners – in Sweden’s 5-0 win over Italy on July 29. Rolfo, Stina Blackstenius and Rebecka Blomqvist also scored as Sweden took a 3-0 halftime lead over the Italians and held a 7-3 advantage overall in shots on target.
With six points from its first two matches, Sweden head coach Peter Gerhardsson made nine changes to its starting lineup in the final group stage match against Argentina, winning 2-0 behind a 66th-minute goal from Blomqvist and a penalty kick in the 90th from Elin Rubensson.
ROAD TO DOWN UNDER
Sweden qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, its ninth all-time, after a commanding performance in UEFA Qualifying Group A that saw them go unbeaten in the group with an overall record of 7W-1D-0L. The Swedes outscored the opposition 32-2 in qualifying, conceding one goal to Finland in a 2-1 victory in November of 2021 and in a 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland in April of 2022, the only points dropped during the qualifying campaign.
Along with Spain and France, Sweden was one of the first teams from Europe to clinch its spot, securing its World Cup berth on April 12, 2022. Forwards Lina Hurtig and Rolfo led Sweden in scoring in qualifying with five goals apiece.
Sweden, along with the USA, is one of seven nations to qualify for every edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Brazil, Germany, Japan, Nigeria and Norway are the others to have appeared in all nine Women’s World Cups.
WE MEET AGAIN: USA VS. SWEDEN
The most-played matchup in FIFA Women’s World Cup history, the USA and Sweden are set to meet for the seventh time at the World Cup, though this will be their first meeting ever in the World Cup knockout rounds. The USA and Sweden first squared off in the first group match of the 1991 Women’s World Cup and have played in every World Cup since 2003, with all those encounters taking place in the group stage. The U.S. has a record of 4W-1D-1L against Sweden at the World Cup, the lone loss coming in a 2-1 defeat to the Swedes in 2011 followed by a scoreless draw in 2015.
In the most recent World Cup matchup between the teams in 2019, the USA defeated Sweden 2-0 in the final group stage match behind a third-minute goal from Lindsey Horan and an own goal from Sweden in the 50th.
Sunday’s match in Melbourne will be the 10th meeting all-time between the USA and Sweden at a world championship, with the teams playing twice at the Olympics in addition to the six previous meetings at the World Cup. The USA and Sweden played most recently in the group stage opener of the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a 3-0 victory for the Swedes who went on to claim the silver medal, falling to Canada on penalty kicks in the final. The only other knockout round meeting between the teams came in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Summer Olympics when Sweden advanced on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw at the end of regulation and extra time.
The Round of 16 matchup will be the 43rd meeting overall between the USA and Sweden, making Sweden the fourth-most commonly played opponent in USWNT history behind Canada, China PR and Norway. The USA leads the all-time series, which dates back to 1987, with an overall record of 23W-12D-7L, though in the last 10 matches the USA is 4W-4D-2L, with nine of the last 10 meetings between the teams decided by two goals or fewer.
INSIDE THE ROSTER
Now in his seventh year as head coach for Sweden, Gerhardsson’s roster for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup features 17 players who were a part of Sweden’s silver-medal winning side in 2021. A name long-synonymous with women’s soccer in Sweden, midfielder Caroline Seger is back for her fifth Women’s World Cup, albeit in a more reserved role as the 38-year-old battled back from injury to make the World Cup roster.
Midfielder Kosovare Asllani, who has 172 caps for her country and captained the squad in Sweden’s first two group games before getting a well-earned rest against Argentina, is the overall leading scorer on this roster with 44 career international goals. Center back Ilestedt leads Sweden in scoring with three goals at this World Cup, all of which have come off corner kicks. Roflo and Blomqvist have two goals each while Blackstenius and Rubensson have a goal apiece. Sofia Jackobsson, who plays for San Diego Wave FC in the NWSL alongside the USA’s Alex Morgan and Naomi Girma, has two assists this tournament, tied with defender Jonna Andersson for the team lead.
SWEDEN WOMEN’S WORLD CUP ROSTER BY POSITION
Goalkeepers (3): 1-Zecira Musovic (Chelsea FC, ENG), 12-Jennifer Falk (BK Häcken), 21-Tove Enblom (KIF Örebro DFF)
Defenders (7): 2-Jonna Andersson (Hammarby DFF), 3-Linda Sembrant (Juventus FC, ITA ), 4-Stina Lennartsson (Linköpings FC), 5-Anna Sandberg (BK Häcken), 13-Amanda Ilestedt (Arsenal, ENG), 14-Nathalie Bjorn (Everton, ENG)
Midfielders (8): 9-Kosovare Asllani (AC Milan, ITA), 16-Filippa Angeldal (Manchester City, ENG), 17-Caroline Seger (FC Rosengård), 18-Fridolina Rolfo (FC Barcelona, ESP), 19-Johanna Kaneryd (Chelsea FC, ENG), 20-Hanna Bennison (Everton, ENG), 22-Olivia Schough (FC Rosengård), 23-Elin Rubensson (BK Häcken)
Forwards (5): 7-Madelen Janogy (Hammarby DFF), 8–Lina Hurtig (Arsenal, ENG), 10-Sofia Jackobsson (San Diego Wave FC, USA), 11-Stina Blackstenius (Arsenal, ENG), 15-Rebecka Blomqvist (VfL Wolfsburg, GER)
After finishing second at the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, third at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and taking silver at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Sweden holds the distinction of being the only nation to finish in the top three in each of the last three world championship events.
While a perennial contender, Sweden has not finished first in a major tournament since winning the 1984 UEFA Women’s Championship. Since then, the Swedes have posted three runner-up and four fourth-place finishes at the EUROS, two silver medals at the Olympics and one runner-up and three third-place finishes at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Sweden’s best-ever showing at the World Cup came in 2003, when Sweden reached the final before falling to Germany 2-1 in extra-time in the championship match.
Sweden finished third at the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, topping Germany 4-0 in the third-place match after dropping its group-stage opener to the USA. After falling to Japan 3-1 in the 2011 semifinal, Sweden topped France 2-1 in the third-place match and then beat England 2-1 in 2019 to claim third-place honors.
COURTESY USA SOCCER COMMUNICATIONS