Americans awoke on Sunday morning to find themselves bathing in wave after wave of schadenfreude. In Melbourne, the unthinkable had happened: the US Women’s National Team had been defeated – and eliminated from the football World Cup.
The online criticism was unrelenting. ‘They really are equal to the men’s team,’ said The Spectator World’s Stephen L. Miller. ‘Any men’s team that was as cocky as this US women’s soccer team and got eliminated this early in a shocking upset would get absolutely obliterated by sports media,’ tweeted radio host Clay Travis.
After a languid and leggy group stage performance that saw the team fail to win for the first time since 2015 and go through to the knockout stages in second place, America’s ladies looked much more positive in regulation time against Sweden. But a gargantuan performance from Swedish goalkeeper Zećira Mušović kept the US at bay – and after 120 minutes it was time for penalties.
To the delight of many, Megan Rapinoe was one of the three to fluff her lines for the US. After coming on in extra time for Alex Morgan, who had a weak penalty saved in the opening match against Vietnam, Rapinoe skied her effort well over the bar – a dispiriting final kick of her career. Then for Sweden, Lina Hurtig’s shot was initially saved by Alyssa Naeher, but the ball rebounded off the woodwork and was shown by the video assistant referee to have fully crossed the line: the US were out.
The US women are already widely disliked internationally for appearing cocky – many fans hadn’t forgotten their wild over-celebrations of the 13 goals they put past Thailand at the start of the last World Cup.