Swedish ‘cowards’ beat USA to reach semi-final

Swedish 'cowards' beat USA to reach semi-final
Sweden inflicted America's first defeat in 15 games at the Olympics. Photo: TT
Outspoken USA women's goalkeeper Hope Solo labelled Sweden "cowards" after the Swedes ended the world champions' bid for a fourth straight Olympic gold by progressing to the Olympic semi-finals on penalties.

Sweden progressed to their first ever Olympics semi-final 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Brasilia as Sweden coach Pia Sundhage ousted the US team she led to gold in 2008 and 2012.

“We played a bunch of cowards,” Solo told Sports Illustrated.

“The better team did not win today. I strongly believe that. I think you saw American heart. You saw us give everything we had today.”

“I don't think they're going to make it far in the tournament. I think it was very cowardly,” added Solo.

“We had that style of play when Pia was our coach.”

The Sweden coach, Pia Sundhage, who led the US to gold and the 2008 and 2012 Olympics was dismissive of Solo’s outburst.

“I don’t give a crap,” she told reporters after the game. “I’m going to Rio, she’s going home.”

The USA’s star striker Alex Morgan and substitute Christen Press missed penalties before Lisa Dahlkvist converted the winning spot-kick despite Solo's best efforts to put her off by changing gloves to delay Dahlkvist's effort.

“What she did was an act of panic,” said Swedish 'keeper Hedvig Lindahl of Solo's time-wasting tactics before the final penalty.

USA coach Jill Ellis tried to diffuse the row.

“They executed her game plan very well. It's a matter of knowing how to use all the resources you have,” said the Englishwoman.

“And finally the most important thing is the result, not how to play.”

Sweden inflicted America's first defeat in 15 games at the Olympics and only their third ever in Games history having won four golds and a silver since women's football was introduced to the Olympic programme.

Morgan looked to have saved America's blushes when she swooped 13 minutes from the end of normal time to cancel out Stina Blackstenius's opener just after the hour mark.

But the world's number one ranked side failed to break down Sundhage's well-organised Swedes in extra-time, who also had a perfectly good goal from Lotta Schelin wrongly ruled out for offside in the final minutes.   

Sweden play Brazil in the semi-final on Tuesday and, despite the fact Brazil beat the Swedes 5-1 in the group stages, Sundhage insists she has full faith that the Swedes could pull off a massive upset.

“I am so impressed by these splendid girls and what they can achieve.”