TOKYO — Sweden didn’t have to bunker down on defense against the Americans this time.
Stina Blackstenius scored a pair of goals and the Swedes stunned the United States at the Olympics with a 3-0 victory Wednesday in the women’s soccer tournament.
The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world and the favorites to win gold, were riding a 44-match unbeaten streak heading into the match. But Sweden, ranked No. 5, has been the U.S. team’s nemesis of sorts in recent years. The Swedes bounced the Americans from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarterfinals, the earliest U.S. Olympic exit, by making a defensive stand.
This April, Sweden played the United States to a 1-1 draw in Stockholm, which snapped a winning streak dating to January 2019 when the Americans lost to France in the run-up to the World Cup. It was the U.S. team’s only draw this year.
“Did we expect this result tonight? No,” said U.S. forward Megan Rapinoe, who did not start but came on as a substitute in the 64th minute with the score 2-0. “It’s frustrating, and it’s frustrating that it’s Sweden. They found a lot of space on us.”
Sweden’s offense deserved all the credit. Blackstenius’ header into the far corner off a cross from Sofia Jakobsson in the 26th minute gave the team a first-half lead.
Blackstenius scored again in the 54th minute, beating goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Lina Hurtig added the final goal in the 72nd.
The United States has been to all seven Olympics that have included women’s soccer, winning four Olympic gold medals, more than any other nation. The team is vying to become the first to win Olympic gold following a World Cup title.
In 2008, the United States also lost its first match, 2-0 to Norway, but went on to win the gold medal.
It was just the sixth time that the United States had lost by three or more goals.
Sweden now leads Group G heading into Saturday’s game against Australia, while the United States faces New Zealand. The top two teams in the group advance to the knockout round.
Before the matches, players from the U.S., Great Britain, Chile, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand made various gestures, including kneeling, against racism.
Long restricted by the International Olympic Committee, such protests within limited parameters are now permitted at the Games inside the field of play.
LaVine cleared; U.S. hoops roster is full
USA Basketball expects to have its full 12-man roster available for Sunday’s matchup against France, the first game for both teams in the Tokyo Olympics.
Zach LaVine has been cleared to exit the health protocols that stemmed from a coronavirus testing-related issue, will fly to Japan and rejoin the team on Thursday. And the plan is that the three players from the NBA Finals — Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday from the newly crowned champion Milwaukee Bucks and Devin Booker from the Phoenix Suns — will be in place on Saturday.
“I’ve got to celebrate this and then get on a flight and represent my country,” Holiday said in Milwaukee, where the Bucks clinched the title.
The rest of the American roster worked out in Japan for the first time on Wednesday, a day after its flight from Las Vegas. The likelihood remains that the team — which has already seen JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson added in place of Kevin Love and Bradley Beal — will have just one full practice together before its games start to count.
for 2032 Olympics
Brisbane was picked Wednesday to host the 2032 Olympics, the inevitable winner of a one-city race steered by the IOC to avoid rival bids.
The Games will go back to Australia 32 years after the popular 2000 Sydney Olympics. Melbourne hosted in 1956.
Brisbane won the vote 72-5.
Brisbane follows 2028 host Los Angeles in getting 11 years to prepare for hosting the Games. Paris will host in 2024.
Softball: Cat Osterman, a 38-year-old left-hander and one of two remaining players from 2008, pitched one-hit ball over six innings and struck out nine as the U.S. beat Italy 2-0 in Fukushima.
Michelle Moultrie singled in a run in the fourth inning for the top-ranked U.S., which lost the title to Japan 3-1 at the 2008 Beijing Games. Janie Reed, the wife of Dodgers reliever Jake Reed, added a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Opening ceremonies: Four-time Olympic women’s basketball gold medalist Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez, who previously won a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in speed skating, were chosen as U.S. flag bearers for the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday night.
Baseball: Boston Red Sox minor leaguer Triston Casas hit a two-run homer in the first inning and drove in three runs, and Todd Frazier had a tiebreaking single to lead the U.S. Olympic team over a college national team 5-2 Tuesday night to complete a three-game exhibition sweep in Cary, N.C.