Sweden caused an upset by ending the title defense of the top-ranked United States at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in a thrilling penalty shootout. The match was deadlocked 0-0 after extra time in Melbourne before Sweden won the shootout 5-4. The US missed three penalties, including one from retiring star Megan Rapinoe, while Sweden missed two.
In the seventh round of penalties, substitute Lina Hurtig became Sweden’s hero, but a VAR confirmation was required to verify whether the ball had crossed the line before American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher caught it.
Sweden’s victory sets up a quarterfinal clash with former champion Japan. Meanwhile, the Netherlands secured their spot in the quarterfinals by defeating underdogs South Africa 2-0 at the Sydney Football Stadium. Jill Roord scored early in the match, and Lineth Beerensteyn added another goal in the 68th minute after South Africa’s goalkeeper, Kaylin Swart, made a costly error.
The Netherlands, ranked ninth, will be without Danielle van de Donk due to suspension after receiving her second yellow card of the tournament. South Africa, ranked 45 places below the Netherlands, had shown promise by beating Italy 3-2 to win their first-ever World Cup game.
Earlier, the United States had entered the knockout stage with uncertainty after a lackluster group phase. Despite dominating possession in the first half, they couldn’t break the deadlock against Sweden. Several chances went begging, including a powerful header from co-captain Lindsey Horan that hit the crossbar. The Americans relied on Megan Rapinoe in extra time, but her efforts were in vain as Sweden emerged victorious.
In the upcoming Round of 16 matches, European champion England will face Nigeria, while co-hosts Australia will play Denmark on Monday.