LE HAVRE, France — After all the tension and the build-up and the references to the 2016 Olympics loss to Sweden, the United States women’s national team came out and scored in less than three minutes.
The Americans then scored again in the second half to break the Women’s World Cup group stage scoring record and beat Sweden 2-0 Thursday at Stade Océane. The U.S. finished first in Group F with 18 goals, surpassing the 1995 Norway team’s 17. Spain now waits in the single-elimination round of 16.
Sweden finished second in the group and will play Canada next.
“This was an important game for us to figure out about ourselves, learn some things, play against a quality opponent,” U.S. forward Tobin Heath said. “We knew this was kind of revving up to the knockout round. So, now we’re really going to see what we’re made of.”
The U.S. strength that concerned Sweden most is what led to the opening goal — a set piece. Megan Rapinoe whipped in a corner kick that flew through quite a few legs before landing in front of Lindsey Horan, who finished from close range for the fastest goal so far in the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
When asked about her record goal, Horan humbly said, “I was in the right spot at the right time.”
Seagulls swooped overhead in the coastal stadium full of an announced crowd of 22,418 fans, largely favoring the United States but also featuring a large contingent of Swedes at one end who countered eruptions of “U-S-A!” with chants of their own.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis used mostly her preferred starting lineup, save for Julie Ertz, who was on the bench as a precaution because of a hip contusion. Sweden, however, switched up its lineup significantly from previous matches.
When asked if the lineup changes came as a surprise, U.S. players said they barely noticed and it did not impact their gameplan.
In the first half, Crystal Dunn led the U.S. defense, thwarting various attempts from Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson. Just before halftime, Jakobsson finally got a shot past Dunn, but goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher made a diving save to keep the scoreline 1-0. The U.S. controlled 62% of possession in the first half and out-shot Sweden 13-4.
Sweden played a physical match and more than one U.S. player went down on the pitch.
Alex Morgan hit the turf late in the first half and was slow to get up, holding what appeared to be her right leg. She jogged it off, but was replaced by Carli Lloyd at halftime. Ellis said after the game that Morgan came off as a precaution to prevent any risk of a serious injury entering the knockout stage of the tournament.
Ten minutes into the second half, Rapinoe sent a ball into the box that soared over Lloyd’s head and landed in front of Heath. A few dribbles, a quick flick and Heath put the ball over the head of Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl for a 2-0 lead. The shot was ruled an own goal because the ball skimmed off the foot of defender Jonna Andersson.
The goal stood after lengthy video review to determine whether an offside Lloyd, who did not touch the ball, should negate the goal.
Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson made substitutions fairly early in the second half. He brought on forward Fridolina Rolfö in the 56th minute for midfielder Olivia Schough, then subbed off captain Caroline Seger and leading goalscorer Kosovare Asllani for defender Hanna Glas and forward Lina Hurtig, respectively.
Ellis used her additional substitutes to bring on fresh forwards in Mallory Pugh and Christen Press, who replaced Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle.
Through the final minutes of regulation and the seven minutes of extra time, the United States continued to threaten the goal, but Sweden held the score.
The U.S. now returns to Reims — site of the 13-0 Thailand victory — to face Spain at noon ET Monday. Spain finished second to Germany in Group B.
“I think we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish,” Lavelle said. “Each game got harder as we went on, which was great because it gave us a chance to grow into the tournament. We feel like we ended on a good note and we’re excited for the next part of this tournament.”