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The margin of Sweden's victory over USA was this.

The breaks finally went against Team USA. They put together their best game of the tournament so far, and it just didn’t matter. Had Team USA gone out in the group stage, it would have been humiliating. Losing on penalties to Sweden in the round of 16 downgrades (upgrades?) that to somewhat embarrassing. Now there’s the Olympics next summer to prepare for, and some of the team’s veterans will make way for the younger players. Let’s reassess before the tournament’s quarterfinals get underway?

What do we take away from the loss?
Sweden goalkeeper Zećira Mušović played an incredible match (and gave her coach a platform to trash-talk USA), and most teams would struggle to score if their top two strikers went down with injuries, as happened with USA. Still, the national side’s strength was supposed to be in offensive depth, and while the players kept saying that the offense was going to click, it never really did, though USA created almost all the scoring chances in the match. The winning penalty by Lina Hurtig was blocked by Alyssa Naeher but spun over the line by the margin you see above. That’s how this game goes sometimes.

How much blame do we assign to Coach Vlatko Andonovski?
It’s true that he didn’t miss any of the three penalties that USA biffed during the shootout, but he did sub in Kelley O’Hara at the last moment just for the shootout, and she missed one of them. His substitution patterns never made much sense, and he left Alana Cook planted on the bench. Unless she picked up an injury that we don’t know about, that defies logic. Of course, Jill Ellis made some inexplicable decisions during her tenure as USA’s coach, too, but the results broke her way. Andonovski hasn’t won any World Cups, so he has less goodwill when something like this happens. His tactical rigidity and his statement in the postgame presser that he wouldn’t have done anything differently should seal his fate.

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Who should replace him?
Let’s see who’s available when this tournament is over.

What is the worst part of USA’s loss?
The oh-so-predictable cheering of conservatives who haven’t gotten over the way Megan Rapinoe royally embarrassed Donald Trump four years ago. Right on cue, The Donald’s fragile male ego kicked in. Nice to see he can take time out from dealing with his 78 felony charges. Ron DeSantis fanboy Alexi Lalas bloviated on Fox about the women’s “extracurriculars,” as if he knew what it took to win the World Cup or even get to the quarterfinals. As for everybody else on our shores cheering USA’s defeat, they’re just bitter at seeing a group of women who aren’t barefoot and pregnant. They can go piss on their American flags for all I care.

The round of 16 offered up three matchups of European colonial powers versus the countries they colonized. How did those go?
I’m afraid the colonizers went 3 for 3. Netherlands were clinical in dispatching South Africa, and Morocco’s defense fell apart against France. England needed penalties to get past Nigeria, as the Super Falcons outplayed the favorites but then botched their PKs. (Hmm, sounds familiar.) The English were frustrated by the Nigerians’ tenacious defense, and now they’ll be without their best attacker Lauren James, who picked up a brain-dead red card for kicking an opposing defender. Shades of David Beckham. If it’s any consolation, his career turned out all right. Nigeria’s another team fighting for equal pay back home, so let’s wish them well.

What happened in the other games?
I mentioned Italy’s own goal in my last post, and Laia Codina of Spain evidently saw that and said, “Hold my cerveza.” She played a no-look pass to her goalkeeper from the halfway circle only to find that her keeper was not there. The Telemundo announcer said, “¡No me digas!” as the ball trickled into the net. That’s like the own-goal equivalent of Carli Lloyd’s lob from World Cup 2011. Fortunately for Codina, it was the only goal for Switzerland in a 5-1 loss to Spain, and Codina even managed to score a goal into the correct net, which is the best way to recover from an own goal. Elsewhere, Australia beat a Denmark team that badly wants to play like the “Danish Dynamite” men’s teams from the 1990s. Hard to blame them, but that’s difficult to do when your offense is Pernille Harder and a bunch of players named Signe.

Who should we root for now that USA is out?
Japan vs. Sweden figures to be the most interesting game in the quarterfinals. Coach Futoshi Ikeda got his tactics spot-on against Spain, when he had Japan sit back and play for counterattacks that tore the Spaniards apart. Will he do the same against the Swedes, or will he be more proactive? Whatever he picks, it’ll be fascinating seeing Japan’s technical quality go up against the Swedes’ more direct approach. England is lucky that James’ suspension will come against Colombia and not a more capable opponent. Spain vs. Netherlands will also be something to watch, as Aitana Bonmatí has been one of the tournament’s breakout stars. Speaking of which, Kyra Cooney-Cross was supposed to be the big question mark in Australia’s midfield, but she has provided the passing in what’s looking like a terrifying midfield trio along with veterans Katrina Gorry and Emily van Egmond. Oh, and Sam Kerr got some run in the Matildas’ win over Denmark. France are fit and firing, but they won’t have much fun playing against the host nation in front of a rabid crowd in Adelaide. It would be cool to see eternal bridesmaids France get this one, but it would also be cool to see Kerr dominate in the World Cup the way she can. (Also, she’s dating USA’s Kristi Mewis, so there’s that.) Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get over my depression by re-watching the Barbie movie.

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