Women’s World Cup: USWNT v. Sweden Preview

The U.S. Women’s National Team will face off against Sweden Friday night in its second game of Group D play, and the match has all the makings of a marquee game.

In the 2011 World Cup, the USWNT lost 2-1 to Sweden in their second group game, but the history between the two teams does not end there. In fact, the two teams have faced each other in four consecutive World Cups during group play. Also, after coaching the U.S. in two Olympics and the 2011 World Cup, Sweden’s head coach Pia Sundhage left the United States to take the helm in her native country.

Sweden and Sundhage are coming off of a disappointing 3-3 tie with Nigeria in which they watched a 2-0 lead slip away. The U.S. beat Australia 3-1, but had to overcome a shaky first half with a second half that still was not a display of where the team wants to be.

There were already built-in incentives for the Americans to come out hungry for a statement win; finish at the top of Group D, send a signal to other teams that they are the team to beat. But then on Wednesday another one was added to the list courtesy of an interview The New York Times published of Sundhage from back in April. The interview touched upon her opinions of a few of her former players.

Some of her quotes stirred up controversy, especially her criticism of midfielder Carli Lloyd. Sundhage told the Times, “Carli Lloyd was a challenge to coach, by the way. When she felt that we had faith in her, she could be one of the best players. But if she began to question that faith, she could be one of the worst.”

Sundhage also added that Hope Solo was a challenge to coach “especially when it comes to trouble.” Not that this was a revelation to anyone following Solo’s headlines over the past year.

Regardless, the media was abuzz with the story of the former coach taking shots at the current USWNT.

At Thursday’s press conference, Sundhage tried to give some context for her earlier comments explaining, “If you look at Carli Lloyd, talk about favorite players. The reason I am sitting here is because of the U.S. team. They made me look good.”

The USWNT will set out on Friday to do the exact opposite of Sundhage as they take the field from the other side of the tunnel. A win for the USWNT would secure them a spot in the knockout round and a good chance of winning Group D.

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