WOLFSBURG, Germany – The Americans can’t do things the easy way.
Needing only a tie to avoid Brazil in the quarterfinals, the U.S. fell 2-1 to Sweden on Wednesday night, the team’s fourth loss since November and first in group play at the World Cup.
“After, what I said to the team is, my glass is half-full,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “Even though we lost, we can come out as a winner if we take a different path. … We really want to play in the final. But we have to play some great games, play some great teams. I really want us to embrace this process. I think the team will get stronger. That’s the plan.
“It’s a little bit different for me to talk about the final. That’s what it takes when we take a different road.”
Lisa Dahlkvist converted a penalty and Nilla Fischer scored on a free kick for Sweden, which won Group C and will play Australia on Sunday in Augsburg. Abby Wambach got the U.S. back in the game in the 67th minute with her first goal of the tournament, but, as they have all year, the Americans squandered too many other chances and now must Brazil on Sunday in Dresden.
Brazil was the runner-up to the Americans at the last two Olympics and to Germany at the 2007 World Cup, and is led by five-time FIFA player of the year Marta.
As the final whistle sounded, Sweden’s players rushed onto the field, gathered in a circle and did the dance that’s quickly becoming their tradition. They then took a victory lap around the field, delighting the many Swedish fans in the crowd of 23,468 who whistled and cheered.
“It was one of the better matches,” Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby said. “To get nine points in the group phase, that’s really good.”
The U.S. is a two-time World Cup champion, two-time defending Olympic gold medalist and the No. 1-ranked team.