New York Times
CHOFU, Japan — Five years. That is how long it had waited for this game.
Five years since the United States women’s soccer team’s hopes for an Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games were dashed by Sweden.
Five years since a defeat that forced the Americans to look in the mirror and ask hard questions about their age, dominance and future.
Five years of waiting, only to end up right back in the same place.
The United States opened the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday exactly where it ended the Rio Games five years earlier: reeling from a humbling, embarrassing defeat to Sweden.
Back then, it was a loss on penalties in the quarterfinals. This time, it was not nearly as close: Sweden dominated the United States, 3-0. Back then, Sweden had bunkered down and frustrated the Americans.
On Wednesday, it simply dominated from one side of the field to the other.
“Did we expect this result tonight? No,” U.S. forward Megan Rapinoe said. “It’s frustrating, and it’s frustrating that it’s Sweden.”
“I don’t remember the last time we gave up a goal,” she added. “So to give up three is not great.”
Defender Kelley O’Hara acknowledged before the game that she and her teammates had been pining for another shot at the Swedes at the Games. “It’s what we’ve waited now five years for, to be back here,” she said.
They just never expected it to go like this.
Striker Stina Blackstenius delivered a goal in each half for Sweden, a glancing header in the 25th minute and a point-blank finish in the 54th that felt like a just reward for a dominant performance at the tip of a Sweden attack that had the Americans on their heels almost as soon as the game began.
The United States tried everything to turn the tide. Positional tweaks to try to aid a midfield that was routinely overrun. Substitutions to refashion a largely toothless attack. Reinforcements to bolster a defense that was first stretched and then cut apart.
Even the most reliable of veterans brought on to help seemed to have little effect. Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz — in her first appearance in months — came on at halftime, but Sweden soon doubled its lead.
Rapinoe was inserted to offer a bit of menace on the wing, but it never materialized.