US defeats rival Sweden 2-0, finishes atop group at Women’s World Cup

The United States faced its toughest test of the Women’s World Cup in France and the defending champions were again dominant Thursday night, beating Sweden 2-0 in Le Havre to serve up payback against the fierce rivals who stunned the Americans in the last Olympics.

Lindsey Horan scored within the first three minutes, the fastest goal of this tournament. The United States went up 2-0 on an own goal off Jonna Andersson in the 50th minute that gave the Americans a tournament-record 18 goals in the group stage. The U.S. did not concede a goal for the first time in group play.

“We needed this next level and we responded to that. That’s the ignition we needed,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said.

Already assured a spot in the round of 16 before the game, the United States finished atop its group and will head to Reims to face Spain on Monday. Sweden will play Canada in Paris.

“We’ve been part of some very big games against them, and we haven’t beaten them in a major tournament in a while. So it feels good that we can go into this tournament and we can play well against a quality side and get a result,” defender Becky Sauerbrunn said.

The U.S. pounced on Thailand in its opener, winning 13-0 and drawing criticism for celebrating every goal even when the game was well in hand. The Americans had a more staid performance against Chile on Sunday in Paris, winning 3-0 with more muted celebrations, including a golf clap from Carli Lloyd, who scored two goals in that game.

Ellis made seven lineup changes for the game against Chile but for Sweden, she went back to a lineup similar to the one she used in the opener. Lloyd, who played every minute of the 2015 World Cup and scored three goals in a 5-2 victory over Japan in the title match, came into the match off the bench to start the second half.

She replaced Alex Morgan, a Cal alum who was involved in a couple of collisions in the first half and at one point held her right knee. A hip contusion kept defensive midfielder Julie Ertz, a Santa Clara alum, out of the game after she started in the first two and scored her first World Cup goal against Chile.

“Alex took a knock in the first half and it was just, ‘Let’s be smart about this.’ Similar vein to Julie. It is a zero-risk game in terms of having players available for the next round,” Ellis said.

Ninth-ranked Sweden, which opened with a 2-0 victory over Chile and followed with a 5-1 win over Thailand, made seven lineup changes for the game.

Coach Peter Gerhardsson said he selected his starters with an eye toward the next game.

“We know that we have a new match on Monday, which is a knockout match, and that’s the one that’s the most important one,” he said.

Other games: In the other Group F match, Chile missed a penalty that would have sent it to the round of 16 in a 2-0 victory over winless Thailand in Rennes. Chile needed to win by three goals to advance as a third-place team. … In Group E matches, the Netherlands overcame Christine Sinclair’s 182nd international goal to beat Canada 2-1 at Reims to clinch the group with a 3-0 record. Canada finished second. … At Montpellier, Ajara Nchout Njoya scored the second of her two goals in the fifth minute of stoppage time and Cameroon beat New Zealand 2-1 to advance to the round of 16 as a third-place team.

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