Vlatko Andonovski was forced to watch the active demolition of a defensive backline he had spent the last two years perfecting when the USWNT took on Sweden in its first game of the Tokyo Olympics campaign. The Swedes, lethally finishing their major chances, hammered the Americans 3-0 in what was a crushing defeat to the favourites.
Going into this game, the USWNT knew it was a chance to avenge the Rio Olympics defeat and many expected Sweden to stick to its defensively tight formation. However, the team was quick on the counter and exploited any space given to them clinically.
The star-studded US attacking lineup could not break the Swedish defence while taking heavy losses on the other end. Stina Blackstenius scored once in each half to cushion the victory while Lina Hurtig delivered the decisive third.
“Of course, [the defeat] is not something we expected,” Andonovski was quoted saying by The Guardian. “There are so many things that we didn’t do well enough, but I also want to give credit to Sweden; they played an unbelievable game and they were better than us today.”
The USWNT seemed unprepared for the Swedish counter attacks
With dominant displays in the send-off series against Mexico, fans did not expect the USWNT to suffer such a crushing defeat. The loss shattered their 44-game unbeaten run that began in January 2019.
The team will have to make the most of their matches against New Zealand and Australia next if it is to advance to the knockout stages.
“It obviously puts ourselves in a big hole,” Andonovski said. “We’re the only ones that can get ourselves out of it. It’s not going to be easy. We have got to get good results in the next two games. But there’s still a chance. I know this team is not going to give up.”
If anything, this was a wake-up call to the USWNT and its key players. With their perceived invincibility now broken, the teammates will be a lot more alert in weak positions. The defensive backline was known for its resilience and rarely conceded a goal over the time of its unbeaten run.
Things will have to be mapped out once more and Vlatko Andonoski must be at the centre of it. New Zealand and Australia will surely go in for the kill which is why the key players will have to show up over the next two matches.