The Washington Spirit Olympics quartet continued pushing for spots in the knockout rounds today, but got mixed results. The USWNT won big, with Emily Sonnett starting and Kelley O’Hara getting the day off. Meanwhile, Julia Roddar and Saori Takarada didn’t get into Sweden and Japan’s respective games, with Roddar’s side getting another good result while Japan found themselves in a tough spot heading into the final set of group games.
After playing against the USWNT, Roddar was not in the 18 as Sweden beat Australia 4-2. Magdalena Eriksson’s return to the lineup from injury appears to have cost Roddar her place for this one, as the other 17 players in Peter Gerhardsson’s squad were unchanged.
That said, though Roddar didn’t play, this game may have been appointment viewing for the Spirit coaching staff, who still have an open international spot and roster space to make another move this summer:
Richie Burke says that #RiseUpDC have been watching the Olympics analyzing potential future acquisitions. Notes that they've had interest in some players for Sweden in the past.— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) July 23, 2021
Sweden briefly trailed in this game but scored three times in the final 38 minutes and secure a place in the knockout round, and are now virtually a lock to win Group G. Despite losing to them, the USWNT and Australia can both catch them, but it would require the very unlikely scenario of Sweden losing to New Zealand and the USA-Australia winner posting a huge margin of victory to overcome a substantial goal difference margin.
Sweden will head north to Miyagi prefecture as they conclude their group stage schedule, facing New Zealand this Tuesday at 4am Eastern.
Takarada was in uniform, but didn’t pay as Japan fell 1-0 to Great Britain on a 75th minute Ellen White goal. Asako Takakura used four of her five subs in this one, but trailing late, the Nadeshiko view that Takarada is a defender first and foremost always left it unlikely that they’d sub her into this one.
This one leaves Japan in a tricky spot. With 1 point from two games, they more or less have to win their finale to be sure of a spot in the knockout rounds. It’s not a place they expected to be in as the hosts, but they’ve scored just one goal in 180 minutes. Takakura, who opted to leave star forward Mana Iwabuchi on the bench until the 80th minute in this one, might also be under some pressure.
Takarada and Japan are in the second game on the bill at Miyagi Stadium Tuesday, where they’ll follow up Roddar and Sweden’s game by playing Chile at 7am Eastern.
Sonnett started at right back and went the full 90, making her Olympic debut after being an alternate in the 2016 Rio Games. She nearly had an assist, too, crossing for Carli Lloyd to head home only for the offside flag to come up and negate the goal. That started a wild stretch in which the USWNT had no fewer than four goals called back for offside.
Eventually, though, the Americans improved their timing, and a crucial goal just before halftime to make the score 2-0 seemed to break New Zealand’s resolve. The U.S. went on to win 6-1 in the end, with Sonnett not really involved at all on the lone Football Ferns goal. She did track back as the last field player back after Abby Dahlkemper slipped, but really had no chance to do anything about Betsy Hassett’s shot into the roof of the net.
While Sonnett did see the tricky Olivia Chance get away from her a couple of times in the early going, she had a largely untroubled game at right back, and drifted inside in possession several times as Vlatko Andonovski appeared to add some movement wrinkles to a USWNT side that didn’t have any surprises for Sweden in their last game.
O’Hara wasn’t in uniform for this one, most likely due to some planned rotation given the unforgiving schedule. That allowed Andonovski to play Sonnett for the full 90, and it also likely played a factor in Casey Krueger getting her richly-deserved Olympic debut late in the game.
The USWNT’s group stage concludes Tuesday with a 4am kickoff against Australia. That match sees them heading slightly east to play at Kashima Stadium.
Where things stand
It’s complicated all around, as it’ll always be in a tournament where three groups have to produce eight quarterfinalists. For the USWNT, their ruthlessness at the end of today’s game (it was 3-1 in the 80th minute) was a big deal, as it took them from needing to beat Australia Tuesday, to simply needing to avoid a loss.
A draw would see both teams end up on 4 points, but the U.S. would finish in 2nd place on goal differential (+2 to -1). Finishing 2nd in Group G would mean Friday’s quarterfinal would be in Yokohama against the winner of Group F. While that could be any of the Netherlands, Brazil, China, or Zambia, most likely it would be either against the Dutch or the Brazilians (in both cases, a quarterfinal that wouldn’t be out of place as the gold medal game).
If the USWNT beats Australia, they can win Group G, but only if New Zealand pulls off a shocking upset against Sweden, and either the U.S. wins by two or more goals, or Sweden loses by two or more goals. Based on what we’ve seen so far out of the excellent Swedish team, this scenario is...unlikely.
Now, if the USWNT loses, they can still go through, but we have to go pretty far into the weeds to sort it out. First of all, they could theoretically end up falling to 4th place and be eliminated, but it would require a huge loss and/or New Zealand running up the score on Sweden. More likely, they’d be the 3rd place team on 3 points, which means we’d be scoreboard watching, as Group E and Group F both play after Group G’s games end.
The results that would see the USWNT eliminated as a 3rd place team would include a win for either China over the Netherlands or Zambia over Brazil in Group F, so that the top three teams in that group all get to 4 or more points. The other thing that would have to happen would be either Japan beating Chile by any score, or Chile beating Japan by a scoreline that — combined with the US-Australia score — allows the Chileans to make up the goal difference gap (currently +2 to -3) between them and the USWNT.
For Roddar and Sweden, it’s more straightforward. They have advanced, and if they do not lose to New Zealand, they’ll win Group G. That would set them up for a return to Saitama for their quarterfinal, where they’d face the 3rd place team from either Group E or Group F.
Takarada and Japan are in the most difficult position. They could possibly advance with a draw, but only if both the Netherlands and Brazil win their Group F finales, keeping the 3rd place team in that group on 1 point. A loss to Chile would eliminate them outright.
A win for Japan gives them a shot at finishing in 2nd, but it would require Great Britain to beat Canada, and for the goal difference and goals scored tiebreakers to go their way. Currently they’re -1, while Canada is +1, and Canada has 3 goals scored to Japan’s single tally. Finishing in 2nd would mean staying at the Miyagi Stadium to take on the 2nd place team from Group F, while going through as a 3rd place qualifier would mean either a trip to Kashima to face the Group E winner or to Saitama for a game against the Group G winner.