The U.S. Women’s National Team’s (USWNT) devastating loss to Sweden in the Round of 16 of the Women’s World Cup came down to the finest of margins.
Sweden’s game-winning penalty kick, which eliminated the USWNT from the tournament, crossed the goal line by the smallest of measurements before being swatted away by goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) played a crucial role in confirming the goal, leaving the USWNT no chance of securing a historic third consecutive title.
Naeher, the American goalie, expressed her disappointment after the match, acknowledging that the difference between victory and defeat was a mere millimeter, making the loss particularly difficult to accept.
Throughout the penalty shootout, both teams had opportunities to secure victory.
The USWNT faced a critical moment when Kelley O’Hara’s shot hit the right post, while Megan Rapinoe missed her attempt by a significant distance.
As the fate of the game rested on Naeher’s shoulders, she made an impressive attempt to stop Lina Hurtig’s shot.
Naeher lunged in the right direction, getting her hands on the ball.
However, the force of the shot caused the ball to deflect off her hands and towards the goal line instead of moving forward.
Naeher reacted quickly, attempting to swat the ball away before it completely crossed the line.
Referee Stephanie Frappart relied on VAR to determine whether the ball had crossed the line entirely.
After reviewing the footage, the goal was awarded, leading to Sweden’s celebration and the USWNT’s dismay.
This wasn’t the first time the USWNT’s fate hinged on small margins.
In an earlier match against Portugal, a shot bouncing off the post saved the U.S. from elimination in the group stage.
The use of technology like VAR in soccer has been the subject of ongoing debate, but in this instance, it proved decisive in determining the outcome of the match.
In a sport where inches can make all the difference, the USWNT’s dreams of a three-peat were dashed by a mere millimeter, making their elimination a particularly bitter pill to swallow.