USA’s Rapinoe: “If we don’t play well, we don’t win these games”

CHOFU, JAPAN - JULY 21: Megan Rapinoe #15 of Team United States reacts as she warms up prior to the Women's First Round Group G match between Sweden and United States during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on July 21, 2021 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
CHOFU, JAPAN - JULY 21: Megan Rapinoe #15 of Team United States reacts as she warms up prior to the Women's First Round Group G match between Sweden and United States during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on July 21, 2021 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Team USA's Megan Rapinoe and head coach Vlatko Andonovski spoke out about the disappointment of losing their Tokyo 2020 opener 3-0 to the same Sweden side that sent them packing from Rio 2016.

The game of football isn’t played on paper – as the old saying goes. If it was, the U.S. women’s national team, with four Olympic golds and four World Cups to their name and a history rich with huge success, would win every time.

Out on the Tokyo Stadium pitch on 21 July, the opening-day of women’s football at these Olympic Games, the ball bounced Sweden’s way.

“Obviously this is not good,” said Megan Rapinoe, who came on as a sub after being left out of the starting XI for the Americans' opening-day loss that snapped a 44-game unbeaten run for the world champions.

READ | What Went Wrong for USA in Swede Loss | USA - Sweden Match Report

“We got our ass kicked,” added the OL Reign player, a global icon beyond the football pitch, not in the mood to pull any punches. “There's a lot of stuff we can clean up. It’s not the way we wanted to start. I thought we were a little tight, a little nervous, just doing dumb stuff.”

Fancied U.S. overrun by smashing Swedes

A pair of goals from the outstanding Stina Blackstenius and one more from Lina Hurtig were enough to hand the gold-medal-favourite Americans a rare 3-0 defeat. The result now sets up the Swedes, silver-medal winners from Rio 2016, as potential group toppers ahead of the section’s second round of games on 24 July – when the U.S. will face New Zealand and Sweden take on Australia.

“We played badly,” added Rapinoe, a winner of on Olympic gold and two FIFA Women’s World Cups. “But take nothing away from Sweden. They played a great game. They found a lot of space in our shape and were very clinical when they got in front of goal and did very well taking their chances.

“Sometimes I feel whenever we lose or tie, or anyone gives us a game, it is unbelievable and that is really offensive to every other team,” Rapinoe continued. “This is the highest level and these are the best teams in the world - Sweden are one of the best ever in Europe and the world. If we don’t play well, we don’t win these games."

“We always expect to win every game we play,” Rapinoe went on, facing media after the heavy loss to the same country that sent the USA packing at the quarterfinal stage of Rio 2016. “Do we expect this result? No, it is frustrating, and frustrating that it's Sweden. I can’t remember the last time we gave up a goal so to give up three is not great but we know what we need to do, to win these games, get out of the group and go from there."

Tough Olympic opener for new USA boss

It was not the result coach Vlatko Andonovski would have wanted is his first game in charge at a major international competition. “It’s a tough result, a tough situation to be in. I don’t remember this team has ever been in a situation like that or this team losing 3-0 in recent history,” said the man who took over from Jill Ellis in October of 2019. “So it is a bit of a shock but everyone is positive. We still have games ahead of us. We have got to bounce back. We have to forget this game and focus on the next one."

CHOFU, JAPAN - JULY 21: Crystal Dunn #2 of Team United States battles for possession with Sofia Jakobsson #10 of Team Sweden during the Women's First Round Group G match between Sweden and United States during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on July 21, 2021 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
CHOFU, JAPAN - JULY 21: Crystal Dunn #2 of Team United States battles for possession with Sofia Jakobsson #10 of Team Sweden during the Women's First Round Group G match between Sweden and United States during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on July 21, 2021 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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"It has put us in a big hole and we are the only ones who can get ourselves out of it,” the Macedonia-born coach added. “It is not going to be easy, we have to get good results in the next two games, but I know this team will not give up.”

While the Americans are left to deal with the self-doubt of a rattling loss, the Swedes will be oozing sunshine and confidence after setting down an early marker of their intent here in Tokyo.

“It's very good for us to have this start to the tournament and we can be very proud of how we played this game and take everything positive to the next game,” two-goal hero Blackstenius said, before Hedvig Lindahl landed a little elbow in American ribs: "They [the U.S.] came from a long streak of victories, right? I'm just happy that we got to see what we worked on for a long time now, that we see the results of it.”

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