by Asif Burhan
As Hope Solo tried to delay the decisive penalty in the shoot-out by changing her gloves, Lisa Dahlkvist looked at her and smiled with the certainty of a player who knew she was going to score. Sweden, the country who only qualified for the Olympic football tournament due to the withdrawal of England, sensationally eliminated the four-times Olympic champions in Brasilia. Alex Morgan and substitute Kristin Press were the players to miss, with Hope Solo's one save from Linda Sembrandt not enough to save her team this time. Only Norway had ever beaten the United States in Olympic football competition, until now. Sweden, so unconvincing in the group stage, came up with a game plan to frustrate their opponents that ultimately it proved successful, but not before a tumultuous 120 minutes of gripping action.
The only side to avoid defeat to the United States in their triumphant 2015 Women's World Cup campaign, Sweden once again proved obdurate opponents for the Olympic Champions on a poor pitch in Brasilia. Despite dominating territorially in the first half, the US created few chances, Lindahl comfortably tipping over Morgan Brian's early snapshot before Carli Lloyd poked over from a left-wing corner. Alex Morgan then rounded Lindahl who recovered in time to parry Lloyd's shot.
Sweden attempted to create havoc and unnerve Hope Solo in the United States penalty area from any set pieces they earned. Seger clipping the crossbar with a lofted cross from the touchline and Solo pushing out a Stina Blackstenius flick-on under pressure from Schelin. Yet, they where almost caught out themselves when Kelley O'Hara's long-free kick in first-half stoppage time had the Swedish defenders retreating and Nilla Fischer was lucky not to turn the ball into her own net.
The Swedish defensive tactics seemed to have paid dividends when yet another US attack broke down in the 61st minute, Kosovore Asllani and Seger switched the ball to Lisa Dahlkvist whose gloriously weighted through pass found Blackstenius racing ahead of Becky Sauerbraun. The Swedish substitute held off Julie Johnstone and held her nerve to shoot across Solo into the net.
Immediately, Jill Ellis threw caution to the wind by withdrawing holding midfielder Allie Long and throwing on Crystal Dunn. In the 70th minute her pace caught out Rubensson close to the touchline, the cross was not properly cleared and Lloyd lashed a left-foot volley wide. Megan Rapinoe was brought on for O'Hara and both substitutes had a hand in the 77th minute equalizer. Rapinoe, winning the ball in a collision with Asllani which left the Swede injured. The US played on and Tobin Heath's long ball was flicked on by Dunn, hit Samuelsson in the face and fell invitingly for Alex Morgan to steer past Lindahl. From there it was all the Swedish defense. Dunn dribbled past four players and fed Lloyd who cut inside and saw her goalbound shot brilliantly deflected wide by Sembrandt. Lindahl pushed Heath's long-range effort wide as the Swedes clung on for extra time in a thrilling finale.
The pattern of the game continued in extra-time but in the 99th minute, Schelin led another dangerous counter attack but waited too long to release Blackstenius. Immediately after Rapinoe was withdrawn less than 40 minutes after coming on, replaced by Kristen Press, the US lost their cutting edge as they were comfortably kept at bay by the Swedes for the remainder of extra time. Lloyd's 115th minute header was correctly disallowed for a clear pull on Eriksson but Schelin was incorrectly given offside when scoring after the ball fell to her off a US defender. Schelin, Asllani, Seger, and Dahlkvist all held their nerve in the shoot-out and Sweden progress to a semi-final in the Maracanã on Tuesday.