After a year of delay, the U.S. Women’s National Team will kick off the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on July 21, taking on Sweden in the first match of the Group Stage at Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo. The game kicks off at 5:30 p.m. local/4:30 a.m. ET and will be available for viewing in the United States on the USA Network and Telemundo, with streams also available through NBCOlympics.com and the Telemundo Deportes App.
While the environment surrounding this Olympics is unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweden is very familiar foe for the USA. Drawn together into Group G, Wednesday’s matchup will mark the ninth meeting between the USA and Sweden at a world championship and the third such matchup at an Olympics.
For more on the matchup, here are Five Things to Know about Sweden.
SWEDEN AT A GLANCE
Sweden head coach Peter Gerhardsson has selected an experienced side for the Tokyo Games, headlined by midfielder Caroline Seger. With 215 caps, the 36-year-old Seger is the all-time leader in international appearances for her country and will be competing in her fourth Olympics. Seger is one of four players on Sweden’s roster with over 100 caps, joined by goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl (172 caps), Kosovare Asllani (148) and Sofia Jakobsson (123). Asllani is the top scorer on the roster with 38 career international goals, followed by Seger (29 goals), Jakobsson (23) and 25-year-old Stina Blackstenius, who has 17 goals in 64 career caps.
Overall, Sweden’s roster has been well-tested on the world stage, as 18 of the 22 players in Tokyo featured on the 23-player squad that finished third at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sweden’s best result at a World Cup since 2003. However, two key contributors from that World Cup side who will not be competing in Tokyo are defenders Linda Sembrant, who was ruled out due to a knee injury, and Nilla Fischer, who opted not to take part in the tournament as her wife recently gave birth to their second child.
Sweden’s Olympic roster also includes nine players won silver at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the nation’s first medal ever in Olympic competition.
SWEDEN WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Jennifer Falk (Hacken), 1-Hedvig Lindahl (Atletico Madrid, Spain), 22-Zecira Musovic (Chelsea, England)
DEFENDERS (6): 2-Jonna Andersson (Chelsea, England), 14-Nathalie Bjorn (Rosengard), 6-Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea, England), 4-Hanna Glas (Bayern Munich, Germany), 13-Amanda Ilestedt (Bayern Munich, Germany), 3-Emma Kullberg (Hacken)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 9-Kosovare Asllani (Real Madrid, Spain), 16-Filippa Angeldal (Hacken), 5-Hanna Bennison (Rosengard), 8-Lina Hurtig (Juventus, Italy), 20-Julia Roddar (Washington Spirit), 17-Caroline Seger (Rosengard)
FORWARDS (7): 19-Anna Anvegard (Rosengard), 11-Stina Blackstenius (Hacken), 21-Rebecka Blomqvist (Wolfsburg), 10-Sofia Jakobsson (Real Madrid, Spain), 7-Madelen Janogy (Hammarby), 18-Fridolina Rolfo (Wolfsburg, Germany), 15-Olivia Schough (Rosengard)
WE MEET AGAIN: USA vs. SWEDEN
The USA has played Sweden 41 times dating back to 1987 – the fourth most of any country behind Canada, China PR and Norway. The ninth meeting all-time between the teams at a world championship means that Sweden surpasses Brazil, Japan and Norway – all of whom the USA has faced eight times as world championships – as the USWNT’s most frequent foe at the World Cup and Olympics.
The USA and Sweden have played six times at the World Cup – including each of the last five tournaments – and twice previously at the Olympics. At the 1996 Olympics, which was the first Olympics to feature women’s soccer, the USA defeated Sweden, 2-1, in the second match of the group stage. In 2016, Sweden was the team that knocked the USA out on penalty kicks in the Quarterfinals and eventually went on to won the silver medal. Despite getting out-shot 27-6 during regulation in that Quarterfinal match in Brasilia, Sweden played a tactically savvy and aggressive match, earning a 1-1 tie in regulation before holding the USA at bay in overtime and then prevailing 4-3 in PKs. Blackstenius scored for Sweden in the 61st minute while Alex Morgan came up with the equalizer for the Americans in the 77th minute.
The teams most recently met on April 10, 2021, in Stockholm, a 1-1 tie that featured a header goal off a set play from Lina Hurtig in the 38th minute and a late penalty kick equalizer from Megan Rapinoe in the 87th minute after Kelley O’Hara was brought down on the right edge of the penalty box. The draw brought an end to the USA’s 16-game winning streak, which was the third-longest in USWNT history, and marked the first time the USWNT had trailed at any point in a match under head coach Vlatko Andonvoski. Andonovski’s first match in charge of the USA came against Sweden on Nov. 7, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. The USA won 3-2 on two goals from Carli Lloyd and one from Christen Press. Both of Sweden’s goals were scored by forward Anna Anvegard, who was not on the roster for the game in Stockholm but is on the Olympic Team roster. The 24-year-old Anvegard has eight goals in her 19 caps.
In the last 15 matches with Sweden dating back to 2010, the USA is 7-3-6, making for one of the most competitive rivalries among top teams in recent years. In fact, seven of the last eight meetings between the USA and Sweden have been decided by one goal or fewer, with the USA 3-1-4 over that span.
SURGING SWEDES HEAD TO JAPAN
Ranked number five in the latest FIFA rankings, Sweden comes to Japan in the midst of an impressive run of form. Sweden is 4-0-2 in 2021 and unbeaten in its last eight matches dating back to the resumption of play in October 2020 following the stoppage for the COVID-19 pandemic. Sweden opened the year with a 6-1 win over Austria and 3-0 victory over Malta in February, then tied the USA 1-1 in Stockholm in April before traveling to Poland for a 4-2 victory. Sweden also beat Norway 1-0 and tied Australia 0-0 in June to round out its official competitions before the Olympics.
Blackstenius and Hurtig lead Sweden with three goals each on the year, though both were held scoreless in Sweden’s scoreless draw against Australia on June 15. Sweden outshot Australia, 12-7, on the day, but only managed to put three of its attempts on target, compared to two for the Matildas.
THE ROAD TO TOKYO
Sweden qualified for the Tokyo Olympics courtesy of its third-place finish at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. With the top three European teams at the World Cup qualifying for Tokyo 2020, Sweden secured its spot by finishing second among all European teams at the competition.
At the 2019 World Cup, Sweden finished second behind the USA in Group F, losing 2-0 to the Americans in the final group stage match after beating Chile 2-0 and Thailand 5-1 to open group play. Sweden downed Canada, 1-0, in the Round of 16 and UEFA foe Germany, 2-1, in the quarterfinal before falling to the reigning European champions the Netherlands, 1-0, in the semifinal. Sweden then defeated England, 2-1, to take third place, its highest World Cup finish since losing to Germany in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final on a golden goal.
Sweden currently holds the distinction as the only nation to finish in the top three at each of the last two world championship events – finishing third at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and taking silver at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Along with the United States and Brazil, Sweden is one of three countries to appear at all seven Olympics for women’s soccer. However, it took until 2004 for Sweden to advance to the knockout rounds, getting eliminated in the group stage in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000. In Athens in 2004, Sweden won its group and defeated Australia, 2-1, in the quarterfinal before losing to Brazil, 1-0, in the semifinal and to Germany by the same score line in the third-place match.
After quarterfinal defeats at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012, Sweden finished third in its group in Rio, but qualified for the knockout rounds with four points. After besting the USA on penalties in the quarterfinal, Sweden once again advanced on penalties after a scoreless draw against Brazil in the semifinal round. Sweden fell to Germany, 2-1, in the gold medal match, with the decisive score coming off a Sweden own goal in the 64th minute.