BRASILIA, Brazil – For the first time, the United States won’t win an Olympic medal in women’s soccer.
The three-time defending champions were ousted by Sweden on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“I thought we played a courageous game. I thought we had many opportunities on goal,” U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo said. “I think we showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down. I’m very proud of this team.
“I also think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly and firmly believe that.”
Solo was criticizing Sweden’s style of play, which was defensive throughout the match.
When told about Solo’s comments, Sweden coach Pia Sundhage said: “It’s OK to be a coward if you win.”
Tied after three rounds in the shootout, Sweden captain Caroline Seger beat Solo and Christen Press’ attempt against Hedvig Lindhal went over the net. With the next kick, Lisa Dahlkvist beat an outstretched Solo for the 4-3 win.
As Sweden celebrated, U.S. captain Carli Lloyd crouched on the field at Mane Garrincha Stadium. It was the first time that an Olympic women’s match had gone to penalties.
It was the earliest the United States had ever been eliminated from the Olympics since women’s soccer became a sport in 1996.
After a scoreless first half, Stina Blackstenius scored in the 61st minute to give Sweden a 1-0 lead. Alex Morgan scored the equalizer in the 78th and the match went to extra time.
Lloyd had a header called back for offside in the 115th minute, and Lotta Schelin was offside on her attempt against Solo a minute later – although replays appeared to show otherwise.
The reigning World Cup champions, who are also four-time Olympic champions, had not dropped a match this year. But it is Sweden that will play either Australia or host Brazil in the semifinals.
Blackstenius, who came in as a substitute in the first half, broke away and shook off defender Julie Johnston to beat Solo and give Sweden the lead. It was just her second international goal, and Sundhage reacted by high-fiving her assistants on the bench.
The United States got the equalizer with a shot from Morgan that bounced off a Sweden defender. It was Morgan’s team-leading 13th goal of the year.
Lloyd nearly put the United States ahead in the 85th but her kick to the far corner went just wide.
“They played more attacking football then we did. We defended very well,” Sundhage said. “And the fact that there were only two goals and it went to penalty kicks said something about our defending. The U.S. played better in the attack, we played better in the defence.”
The Americans won their first two matches in Brazil before a surprising 2-2 draw in Manaus against Colombia, which had already been eliminated.
Johnston returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a groin injury and coach Jill Ellis played all her regular starters after rotating and resting many against Colombia in the heat and humidity of the Amazon. Megan Rapinoe, who started against Colombia after missing more than eight months following right knee surgery, was on the bench but came on as a substitute in the second half.
Press replaced Rapinoe in the extra period.
Sweden had won only five matches against the United States. At last year’s World Cup, the two teams played to a scoreless draw. The last time the two teams met in the Olympics was at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Sundhage was a player on the Sweden team that fell 2-1 to the Americans.
Ranked sixth in the world, Sweden had struggled in its Olympic group with a 5-1 loss to host Brazil and finished 1-1-1.
Lloyd buried her head in her hands early in the second half after her free kick was off the mark. Just moments later, she had another that was off-target, too, as the United States struggled to finish throughout the match.
The crowd at Mane Garrincha Stadium was sparse at the start of the match and never extended much past the lower bowl of the massive 72,000-seat venue that was reconstructed and expanded for the men’s 2014 World Cup.
The fans that were there continued to jeer Solo with shouts of “Zika!” every time she touched the ball. The fans have taunted her since the opening match in Brazil because of her posts on social media about the virus.