USA women in tears at World Cup exit after VAR's cruel role in penalty shootout

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USWNT were left in tears after a controversial 5-4 penalty shootout defeat to Sweden (Image: GETTY)
USWNT were left in tears after a controversial 5-4 penalty shootout defeat to Sweden (Image: GETTY)

Players from the USWNT were left in tears after a dramatic 5-4 penalty shootout win to Sweden. Despite entering the tournament as favourites, Vlatko Andonovski's side have seen any hope of winning a third consecutive World Cup come to an end thanks to a brutal VAR decision.

The Round of 16 defeat is the earliest the USWNT has exited a Women's World Cup, having reached at least the semifinals of the tournament on every occasion it has been played.

Following a goalless draw after extra time, mainly due to Sweden's in-form goalkeeper Zecira Musovic, both teams' fate was left to the lottery of the shoot-out. Players including veteran forward Megan Rapinoe - playing in what was to prove to be her last game for the USWNT - failed to hit the target, resulting in Sweden's Lina Hurtig converting the winning kick.

Hurtig's shot was initially saved by USA goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who also took and converted a penalty, but the ball was deemed by VAR to have crossed the line after spinning up off the US player. Distraught players were seen in tears after protesting the decision, which was upheld and FIFA's release of an image confirmed it to be the case.

Following the game USA captain Lindsey Horan expressed her frustration at the result but praised her team's efforts. "A lot went into this performance," she said. "We were confident and patient and played beautiful football. We created chances, we didn't score and to be frank penalties suck.

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"I'm proud of every player who stepped up to take one. I'm very proud of my team. Some of the young players coming through are killing it."

USA head coach Vlatko Andonovski echoed Horan's comments following the defeat. " I know we were criticised for the way we played," he said. "I think we came out today and were all about the grit, the resilience.

"Unfortunately, soccer can be cruel sometimes. For it to go to penalties and to end in that fashion, with the confusion at the end."

USA women in tears at World Cup exit after VAR's cruel role in penalty shootoutUSWNT were left devastated by the result (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Sweden will be hoping to build on their strong run of form as they face Japan in the World Cup quarter-finals on Friday, August 11. Peter Gerhardsson's side won all three of their group stage games, including a 5-0 thrashing of Italy.

Japan are in equally impressive form, having also earned a 5-0 win over Zambia and a 4-0 shock win over Spain. The team have only conceded a single goal in the tournament so far and have become favourites alongside England to lift the prestigious trophy.

Joseph Dexter

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