USA-Sweden: 'All the pressure is on the Americans'

As the USA continues on the road in its quest for a fourth straight gold medal at the Olympics, it comes up on Friday against Sweden, coached by Pia Sundhage, who led the Americans to gold in 2008 and 2012.

The Swedes have a record of success against the USA, but they have not played well at the Rio Olympics. Still, Sundhage believes the Swedes have a chance.

The last two times the USA and Sweden met in official competition, the Swedes held the USA to a 0-0 tie at the 2015 Women's World Cup -- its lone blemish en route to its championship -- and beat the USA, 2-1, in group play at the 2011 Women's World Cup.

Sweden fell to Germany, 4-1, in the second round of the 2015 World Cup, exiting without a win after tying all three games in the group stage.

Sweden hasn't done much better in Brazil. It eked out a 1-0 win over South Africa when South African goalkeeper Roxanne Barker mishandled a cross, allowing defender Nilla Fischer to score, but it was trounced by Brazil, 5-1, in its second game.

As it turned out, a draw against China would ensure that both Sweden and China advanced to the quarterfinals -- and they did play to a scoreless draw, sending second-place China up against Germany and the third-place Swedes to Brasilia against the USA.

“We’re going to play the best team in the world, Olympic champions and the World Cup champions, and that is challenging and inspiring,” Sundhage said. “All the pressure is on the Americans. We’re not playing well in the attack, but we’ve done some good things defending, and if you can put those things together, we have a chance to win.”

The USA comes off a 2-2 tie with Colombia that marked just the second time it didn't win in 2016. Hope Solo was beaten twice by Catalina Usme on free kicks in arguably her worst game in an official competition. Coach Jill Ellis rotated her lineup as she gets the squad of 18 players ready for hopefully three games in eight games.

U.S. lineup decisions:

1. Pugh or Dunn up front?

Mallory Pugh
started the first, sat out the second game with an ankle injury and came on the first half of the Colombia game for Megan Rapinoe. Crystal Dunn started for Pugh against France and started again against Colombia. Both Dunn and Pugh scored against Colombia. Pugh is probably the better player on the wing while Dunn is a purer goal scorer.

2. Long or Horan in midfield?

The USA beat France, 1-0, in the second game but the Bleues dominated long stretches of the match, exposing the USA in midfield. Allie Long and Lindsey Horan, who both played in France, have battled for the second spot in central midfield in place of retired Lauren Holiday. Long made a late run to make the U.S. Olympic team and overtake Horan as the starter alongside Morgan Brian.

3. Will Johnston return in the back?

Julie Johnston has sat out the last two games with a groin injury and her availability for Friday's game is undetermined. Her coming out on the international stage came last year in the game against Sweden at the Women's World Cup. She dominating in the back, playing a key role in shutting down the Swedish attack and preserving the 0-0 tie.

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