Sweden ended the top-ranked United States’ title defence on Sunday after prevailing in a dramatic penalty shootout, while the Netherlands downed underdogs South Africa 2-0 to reach the quarterfinals at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Sweden ranked third, inflicted the U.S.’ earliest-ever Women’s World Cup exit after winning a nerve-jangling penalty shootout 5-4. The two teams had been deadlocked 0-0 after extra time in Melbourne.
The U.S. missed three penalties in the shootout, including from retiring superstar Megan Rapinoe, and Sweden missed two, reports Xinhua.
In the seventh round of penalties, substitute Lina Hurtig proved Sweden’s hero, but only after a VAR confirmation was needed to determine whether the ball had crossed the line before American keeper Alyssa Naeher caught it.
“I think we came out today and showed what we’re all about,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Unfortunately, soccer can be cruel sometimes.”
Sweden will now play former champion Japan, while the Netherlands face sixth-ranked Spain, who thrashed Switzerland 5-1 on Saturday to reach their first quarterfinal.
The U.S. had entered the blockbuster clash with uncertainty after a sluggish group phase, where they just squeezed into the knockout stage.
The U.S. were left frustrated having dominated the first half with 62 per cent of possession and six shots on goal to Sweden’s two.
Recalled Trinity Rodman proved to be a handful for Sweden’s defence, but couldn’t break the stalemate.
Their best chance was in the 34th minute when co-captain Lindsey Horan flew highest, but her powerful header from a corner cannoned onto the crossbar.
Horan had another golden opportunity shortly after half-time, but her wickedly curling attempt was spectacularly blocked by Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic at full stretch.
Musovic kept the U.S. at bay in the 89th minute with another stunning save to deny a sizzling header from co-captain Alex Morgan.
The U.S. turned to Rapinoe in extra time, but she couldn’t produce any late heroics as the Americans crashed to a shock exit.
Earlier, the Netherlands, who were runner-up in 2019, scored in each half in front of a 40,000 crowd at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Jill Roord headed into the net early and Lineth Beerensteyn scored in the 68th minute after South Africa goalkeeper Kaylin Swart made a calamitous error.
The ninth-ranked Netherlands will be without Danielle van de Donk, who picked up her second yellow card of the tournament and will be suspended under the tournament’s accumulation rules.
“We lost the ball too often in the first half and gave a few chances away,” Netherlands coach Andries Jonker said.
“We did much better in the second half and had much more control of the game. We deserved to score again and in the end, deserved to win.”
South Africa, ranked 45 places lower than the Netherlands, were major underdogs but had ousted Italy 3-2 to win their first-ever World Cup game.
After Roord’s headed goal in the ninth minute, South Africa rued being unable to capitalise on stretches of dominance with talismanic stand-in captain Thembi Kgatlana having four shots on target.
But her attempts at an equaliser were continually denied by Netherlands goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar, who produced several outstanding saves.
“We felt we could have won this game and if I look back, we should have with the opportunities that we had, but we didn’t take them,” South Africa coach Desiree Ellis said.
South Africa was made to pay when Swart fumbled Beerensteyn’s shot and she slammed the field in frustration after watching the ball tumble into the net.
European champion England faces Nigeria, while co-hosts Australia plays Denmark in the Round of 16 matches on Monday.