Why playing Sweden was pivotal for USA

21 Jun 2019
  • USWNT set Women's World Cup record in group stage

  • Team talks about importance of playing tough opponent

  • Injury updates on Ertz and Morgan

By Erin Fish with USA

They’ve scored the most goals in group play and put up three clean sheets.

The highly-anticipated match-up against Sweden gave the USA exactly what they had hoped for, in addition to another FIFA Women’s World Cup record.

While breaking the record for most goals scored throughout a Women’s World Cup group stage with 18, USA gained valuable insight for their play moving forward. After facing Thailand and Chile, Sweden was the toughest opponent the team had faced so far in France, which was valuable for many reasons.

“This was an important game for us to figure out some things about ourselves, learn some things, play against a quality opponent,” forward Tobin Heath said. “We knew this was kind of revving up to the knockout round, so now we’re really going to see what we’re made of.”

The defence and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who had hardly been tested in the prior matches, were put to work by the speedy Swedish attackers. With three clean sheets after three matches, it indicates all the hard work being done behind the scenes.

Coach Jill Ellis had a similar response to Heath expressing what this type of game meant in group play. She also gave credit to the Swedish frontline, deeming them, “very impressive.”

“This was a fantastic game for us,” Ellis said after the match. “When you come out of the group stage, a lot of what we talk about is mentality and being healthy, and I think we’re in a really good place.”

Health was a minor concern for USA on Thursday. Midfielder Julie Ertz missed the Sweden match with a hip contusion and centre forward Alex Morgan subbed out during half-time after taking a hard hit in the first half and hurting her knee.

"Alex took a knock in the first half and I think it was more about being smart about it, and similar to Julie, who took a hip contusion,” Ellis said. “It's a zero-risk game in terms of having players available for the next round."

Both are expected to be back for the round of 16 matchup against Spain.

This past week many journalists have been asking the question: Would USA want to lose to Sweden in group play to avoid facing France in the quarter-finals?

But every member in the USA camp has the same answer: every game is played at their highest performance and they are focused on the present game.

Now that the USA has finished on top of Group F, they are focused on the next business at hand, and that is the round of 16 where they will face Spain in Reims.


Fans interested in attending the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 can still purchase tickets for the tournament via www.fifa.com/tickets, as well as via ticket booths located at stadia for remaining matches still available to the general public.