USWNT Loses To Sweden In Soccer At The Tokyo Olympics : Live Updates: The Tokyo Olympics The U.S, ranked No. 1 and the reigning World Cup champions, played a familiar foe: Sweden. And unfortunately for the U.S., it was a familiar result. Sweden beat them 3-0.

Top-Ranked U.S. Women's Soccer Team Falls To Sweden In Olympic Stadium With No Fans

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now to a Tokyo Olympics shocker - the top-ranked U.S. women's soccer team got routed by Sweden in its opening game today, 3-nothing. NPR's Mandalit del Barco was one of the very few people watching in the stadium. Here's her report.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: The match was summed up very simply by U.S. star forward Megan Rapinoe. After the game, she was characteristically frank.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MEGAN RAPINOE: Well, we got our [expletive] kicked, didn't we?

DEL BARCO: Sweden controlled the game from the beginning to the end - crisper passes, better defense and a stinging attack that led to three goals against the U.S., the reigning World Cup champions. Afterwards, Rapinoe told reporters she and her teammates had felt a little too tight and nervous throughout, just not themselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAPINOE: And obviously, they're just a very good team that we face all the time. They're one of the best teams in Europe ever, so it's always going to be tough. You know, I think they found the spaces in our offensive shape, and, you know, they obviously are a team that knows exactly who they are. I think, you know, not every team plays like that with that kind of conviction.

DEL BARCO: The U.S. came to Tokyo hoping to be the first women's team to win Olympic gold as the reigning World Cup champion, but it was again their longtime rival, Sweden, which knocked the U.S. out of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Here's U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BECKY SAUERBRUNN: We weren't quite finding enough passes. We were losing the ball in bad areas. They were committing numbers fast, and so it's really hard to defend that because we like to play an expansive shape. And so they capitalized on that. They knew the spaces to capitalize on.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Welcome to Tokyo stadium for the Tokyo 2020 women's Olympic football competition.

DEL BARCO: The match was played two days before the Olympic opening ceremony in the nearly empty Tokyo Stadium. Japan is still in a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic. The game was played without fans.

(APPLAUSE)

DEL BARCO: There were no raucous, roaring cheers - just a smattering of applause from the small press zone whenever the Swedes made a goal. From the stands, you could hear what the players were yelling to each other. You could hear the soccer ball being kicked, even birds chirping nearby. The quiet game was occasionally interrupted by loud music...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEL BARCO: ...And announcements that echoed through the rafters. Even sounds of past soccer games were pumped in. U.S. player Christen Press told reporters she and her teammates have gotten used to playing in empty arenas this past pandemic year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRISTEN PRESS: We could hear each other. We could hear our own breath a little bit, but we do feel the support from everyone, from our family and fans back home. And, honestly, the support powers us through.

DEL BARCO: Press said they see this loss to Sweden as a learning opportunity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESS: And the rhetoric's already heads up. Put it behind us - next game. There's no time in a tournament like this to dwell.

DEL BARCO: The U.S. has two more games in group play against Australia and New Zealand. They hope to do well enough to advance to the knockout round and still go for the gold at these most unusual, rather surreal Olympics.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Tokyo.

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