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USWNT's 44-game unbeaten streak snapped in shocking Olympics 2020 opening defeat to Sweden

6:36 AM EDT 7/21/21
Christen Press USWNT 2021
The reigning world champions were convincingly beaten in their first group game at Tokyo 2020

The U.S. women's national team's 44-game unbeaten streak came to a shocking end on Wednesday, the world champions losing 3-0 to Sweden in their first match at this summer's Olympic Games.

Vlatko Andonovski's side went into this summer's event as the heavy favourites for the gold medal, having won 22 of their 23 games under his charge.

However, their pursuit of the top prize got off to the worst start possible in Tokyo.

What happened?

Sweden are the only team that Andonovski's side have faced and haven't beaten since he took over, the pair drawing 1-1 back in April. On that occasion, the U.S. were fortunate not to lose, winning a late, controversial penalty to equalise.

On Wednesday, the Scandinavian nation went one better with an incredible performance in the opening game of Group G.

They were the better team from the first whistle, with a number of saves from USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher helping to keep the score down as Stina Blackstenius gave Sweden a half-time lead.

The 25-year-old forward added a second shortly after the break, before Lina Hurtig, who scored against the U.S. back in April, headed in a third goal with 18 minutes to play.

It was the United States' first loss since January 2019, when they were defeated 3-1 by France in a friendly. Having won the 2019 Women's World Cup with a perfect winning record, it was also their first competitive defeat since they were knocked out of the 2016 Olympic Games by Sweden, on penalties.

What went wrong for the USWNT?

One of the big concerns for the U.S. going into this tournament was the fitness of Julie Ertz, the defensive midfielder who holds this incredible team together.

She suffered a knee injury in May while playing for her club, the Chicago Red Stars, and didn't appear in any of the warm-up friendlies before this summer's tournament.

Without her in the starting line-up, the USWNT looked out of sorts in midfield, with Sweden able to carve through and create chances.

Ertz came on at half-time, replacing Sam Mewis for her first minutes since that injury. However, Sweden continued to pose plenty of problems, particularly as their opponents began to chase the game more and leave gaps that could be exploited.

What is next?

Andonovski's side face New Zealand next, perceived to be the weakest team in the group, and the head coach will be looking for a big response from his team.

The U.S. were unlucky not to get on the scoresheet against Sweden, hitting the woodwork on two occasions while Carli Lloyd also produced a big save from Hedvig Lindahl, but Sweden could have added plenty more goals to their final tally as well.

With the turnaround very short between games, the next fixtures coming on Saturday, it's likely that Andonovski will rotate heavily and he will expect those who come into the team to stake their claim for more minutes as the tournament goes on, particularly with places up for grabs following this incredible opening defeat.

Further reading

For more on the USWNT's chances at the Olympics and to hear from guests such as Hope Solo, subscribe to Goal's new podcast, 'All Of Us: The U.S. Women's Soccer Show', wherever you listen to your podcasts.