Reigning champions the USA are out of the Women’s World Cup after being stunned by Sweden on penalties on a night of incredible drama in Melbourne.

USA dominated the 120 minutes but were denied by an inspired goalkeeping performance from Zecira Musovic.

The drama only ratcheted up further in the shootout. Three USA players, including their footballing icon Megan Rapinoe on her last appearance on the world stage, missed before Sweden won in remarkable circumstances.

USA keeper Alyssa Naeher appeared to have saved Lina Hurtig’s effort at the second attempt, having pushed the initial effort up before clawing it out.

But after checking with the video assistant referee (VAR), referee Stephanie Frappart awarded the goal and sparked wild Sweden celebrations.

Sweden go through to face Japan in the quarter-finals.

They were indebted to Musovic, who made 11 saves in a game where the USA looked more like the team which won the World Cup in 2015 and 2019 than the one which snuck through the group stage.

But they could not score and in the shootout Rapinoe, Sophia Smith and Kelley O’Hara all missed, Rapinoe with what is her final action at a World Cup as she has announced she will retire at the end of the year.

It condemns the USA to their worst performance at a Women’s World Cup. They had never previously failed to make it to the semi-finals.

Rapinoe’s nightmare farewell as USA crash out

USA had not turned up to the World Cup party before Sunday. Flat and uninspired as they finished second in Group E while failing to win two first-stage matches for the first time in this competition, they have been subject to fierce criticism back home.

Manager Vlatko Andonovski had to make changes – especially as key midfielder Rose Lavelle was suspended for this game – and moved Julie Ertz from centre-back into midfield as the USA switched from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1.

It worked a treat in the first half as they dominated play and were only denied the lead by Musovic and the crossbar.

Trinity Rodman twice stung the gloves of Musovic before Lindsey Horan came even closer by rattling the woodwork with a header from a corner.

USA looked like a proud side stung into action by external criticism and internal knowledge that they have not been good enough so far. A ball recovery time of just six seconds in the first half was evidence of that.

They continued to make chances after the break, Horan and Alex Morgan denied by superb Musovic saves and Emily Sonnett shooting over from the edge of the area.

But they needed a goal to make their dominance count and, as they toiled for it, the crowd which had followed them to Melbourne were becoming more nervous as the game rolled on into extra time.

They continued to be denied by Musovic in the extra period as she saved from Morgan, Lynn Williams and Sophia Smith, with Andonovski sending on Rapinoe shortly before the 100th minute.

The 38-year-old has long been the team’s defining symbol and inspiration – but here she blazed the fourth USA penalty wildly over the bar.

Smith put well wide when the USA would have advanced if she scored, before O’Hara struck the post.

The dreams of the USA being the first nation to win three successive World Cups is over. Their reign as undisputed queens of the global women’s game is also finished.

Kesh Awefada

Kesh Awefada

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