United States will win their Women’s World Cup group if they can secure a draw or better against Sweden in the Stade Oceane in Le Havre on Thursday (3pm ET, live on FOX).
The two teams come into the final round of matches in Group F tied on six points having both seen off Chile and Thailand, tied on zero points at the bottom. With a superior goal difference, the US will top the group if they simply avoid defeat against Sweden.
That goal difference was primarily built up in the national team’s opening match against Thailand, in which they set a new World Cup record by winning 13-0. Alex Morgan scored five times, itself a joint record. They were not quite as dominant against Chile on Sunday, but still came away with a 3-0 win, having outshot their opponents 26 to one.
All three of the goals scored by a heavily rotated starting XI were notched inside the opening 35 minutes. The vastly experienced Carli Lloyd scored the 112th and 113th goals of her international career either side of Julie Ertz’s flicked near-post header from a corner. Christen Press also impressed. Only an outstanding performance from Chile goalkeeper Christiane Endler prevented the US from running up the score further.
Two matches against low-ranked opposition have presented the competition holders with the opportunity to ease their way into the tournament. Between the seven starters she switched out from the win over Thailand and the substitutes used across both matches, coach Jill Ellis has been able to give minutes to all 20 outfield members of her squad. That is something she believes will prove vital further down the line.
Things will get tougher from now on. Sweden are the first top-1o side the US are scheduled to face, and they are likely to come across at least two or three more if they are to go all the way and successfully defend the trophy they won in 2015. Topping the group would put them on a probable collision course with hosts France in the last eight. Finishing second would give them a last-16 tie against either eighth-ranked Netherlands or fifth-ranked Canada.
There are no easy paths and it isn’t immediately clear that either route would be more favourable, particularly as second-ranked Germany would be their likely quarter-final opponents if they tried to avoid France by finishing second and putting themselves in the bottom half of the draw. Ellis’ side can be expected to play to win on Thursday.
Sweden didn’t find it quite as easy as the US to work a way through the defences of Chile and Thailand, but a 2-0 win over the former followed by a 5-1 triumph over the latter have still confirmed their place alongside their final opponents in the last 16. That is a stage they have now reached in each of their last three and seven of their eight overall participations in the World Cup.
They are unlikely to be a pushover. Over the last couple of years, from Euro 2017 onwards, the ninth-ranked team in the world have won two, drawn three and lost two of their seven matches against fellow top-10 sides.
Sweden practice a relatively safe style of play that leans on collective organisation and the defensive smarts of the highly experienced pair of goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl and central defender Nilla Fischer. In attack, the former Chicago Red Stars, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City attacking midfielder Kosovare Asllani is the standout star. She already has two goals and an assist to her name in this tournament.
This is the fourth consecutive World Cup in which USA and Sweden have met during the group stage, with the US enjoying a superior record of two wins to Sweden’s one. All of their recent encounters have been pretty close affairs. The USWNT triumphed 1-0 in a friendly between them two years ago, but Sweden knocked them out of the Olympics on penalties following a 1-1 draw in 2016, and drew 0-0 with them at the 2015 World Cup.
Our Betting Preview’s USA vs Sweden Women Predictions & Picks Verdict
While USA are the favorites for this match with the top odds-setters for Americans, Sweden are likely to keep it tight, and might even manage to sneak a point or better. This is the USWNT vs Sweden prediction for this game:
- Bet on Sweden +1.5 goals on the spread @ best odds of evens (+100) with Bovada.