The women’s Swedish national team pulled off a major upset in the women’s soccer semifinals at the 2016 Rio Olympics. With a conservative and tactical style that favored goal prevention as opposed to offensive push, the Swedes stifled the Brazilians in the semifinals, shutting out the home-country favorites for 120 minutes of play. The Swedish women then scored on four of their kicks in the shoot-out while Brazil only scored a three. The result: the Swedish women have guaranteed themselves at least a silver medal at the Olympics and may still win gold.
The semifinal victory for the Swedes follows another upset in the quarterfinal round. The Swedes showcased their defence-minded strategy against the Americans a few days ago, a match that they also won in a shoot-out.
Sweden’s style of play is one that American goalkeeper Hope Solo criticized sharply. After losing in the quarters, Solo called the Swedes “cowards” in what has to be called a pretty clear case of sour grapes. The comments, which kind of made her look like a poor sport, also made Solo look kind of stupid.
After all, it doesn’t actually make any sense to insult a team that beats you. If you lose to “cowards” then what does it say about you? That you can’t beat people that you think are “cowards”? That’s not a good place to be in life, but that’s effectively where Solo put herself. When you lose a fair-and-square result, then it’s a time for self-reflection – not a time to verbally attack the winning team for doing nothing but playing tactically-intelligent.
Solo, perhaps aptly named, has found herself somewhat alone following her comments. A censure, or formal disapproval, from the IOC was debated. However, whether you agree with Solo’s opinion or not, she still has every right to make her views on how she thinks the game of soccer/football should best be played known to the public. On that note, so do I.
So let’s talk about how cowardly the gold medal the Americans ‘earned’ at the 2012 Olympics for women’s soccer was. After all, the semifinal win that the Americans were essentially ‘awarded’ against Canada in London was by virtue of officiating that is widely regarded as suspicious or “bizarre.”
The way the Olympic knockout stages went four years ago is something legitimate to gripe about as you can talk about an unlevel playing field. However, the way the Swedes have played is nothing to reproach in anyway. Their conservative strategy certainly looks like they are playing for a shoot-out at times, but it’s still well within the rules. If there’s something you don’t like about the way they play, arguably you just don’t like soccer.
I think Solo was a little too used to things just going her way. She found out in Rio that it’s a little harder to win an Olympic medal when “bizarre” officiating doesn’t bail you out. I find it entirely hypocritical that Solo would have nothing to say about the dodgy semifinal match in London, and yet she was audacious enough to invoke a question of bravery with Sweden’s playing style in Rio.
Instead of looking like a sore loser, Solo should probably just look at her Olympic career and be thankful that it was successful as it was (it’s probably over). With a gold medal from a pretty shady tournament in London, she really has nothing to be sour about – in fact, Solo might even have hardware she doesn’t deserve, kind of like Kobe Bryant and the 2002 Los Angeles Lakers.
Rio’s women’s medal matches in soccer, which go on Friday, won’t feature Hope Solo. Instead, the gold-medal final will feature the tactical Swedes against the more-talented Germans. I don’t think the Swedes can abandon what has got them to the final. However, I think the Germans, with so much footage to analyze now, will certainly put together something that can crack Sweden’s defensive set.
Hosts Brazil will play for the bronze medal against Canada, this time, the Canadians relegated to the penultimate match with much more merit as the Rio women’s tournament isn’t as cowardly as the London tournament was. That “merit,” where there aren’t “bizarre” calls coming out of left field is how the games should be resolved. It can’t be that the losers of the games feel as though they were robbed by calls, at least not if the winners want the genuine recognition as the world’s best. That recognition is something that the 2012 London Olympic gold medallists in women’s soccer never had, but it’s something either Team Sweden or Team Germany might have come Friday.