Immediately following the USWNT’s humbling ouster from the Olympics at the hands of a tough-defending Sweden team, salty hater Hope Solo said the Swedes “played like cowards” and that she didn’t “think they’re going to make it far in the tournament.” Add prognostication to the things Solo probably shouldn’t do anymore, because the Swedes just toppled yet another superior-on-paper team—this time, host nation Brazil—on penalties, making it to their first ever Olympic gold medal match.
Sweden attacked Brazil much like they attacked the U.S.—which is to say, they didn’t attack much at all. They did push numbers forward for the odd counter-attacking chance when it came, but otherwise they defended like hell and held on for dear life. Brazil outshot Sweden 32 to 6, and while a good chunk of Brazil’s shots were from too far out to ever really threaten Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl, that disparity is an accurate reflection of Brazil’s dominance.
Brazil’s and arguably world soccer’s greatest-ever player, Marta, did flit around the pitch in typically imperial form, but a combination of poor finishing and a great performance by Lindahl kept the Brazilians off the the scoresheet. The home team almost won the game at the very end of extra time, with numbers in the box, the ball at their feet, and with Lindahl scrambling off her line, but none of the couple pops toward goal Sweden’s thick band of defenders walling off their goal line.
Brazil’s Cristiane missed the first attempt in the penalty shootout, though Sweden soon gave away their advantage by missing one of their own. With the shootout tied going into the fifth and final round, Andressinha missed for Brazil, giving Lisa Dahlkvist the opportunity to put Sweden into the gold medal game with a successful shot, which she converted.
Brazil lost a great opportunity to win their first international tournament in front of their own fans and with America already knocked out, but Sweden won’t and shouldn’t feel at all bad about their success. They’ve earned their spot in the final where they’ll face either Canada or Germany, and whether it’s pretty or not, they’ll be emboldened enough by their last two victories to believe they have what it takes to get the gold.