Sweden dealt the USA a historic loss in the Olympics on Friday, eliminating the Americans and ensuring that the U.S. women’s soccer team won’t appear in a gold medal game for the first time in the sport’s Olympics history.
U.S. star Hope Solo didn’t mince words after. The goalkeeper, who is no stranger to controversy, called Sweden a “bunch of cowards” and criticized ex-USA coach Pia Sundhage, who now helms Sweden.
Solo blasted Sweden and Sundhage for playing a conservative, defensive style in particular after taking a one-goal lead 61 minutes into regular time.
“I thought we played a courageous game,” Solo said. “I also think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly and firmly believe that.”
Solo said the Swedes were cowardly for declining to play a more aggressive, free-flowing style of soccer.
“Sweden dropped off. They didn’t want to open play,” Solo said, explaining why she criticized her opponents. “They didn’t want to pass the ball. They didn’t want to play great soccer.”
Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius scored in the 61st minute, then the USA’s Alex Morgan equalized in the 77th. The teams were then scoreless through regulation and extra time, where each had a goal controversially disallowed. A penalty shootout followed, in which Lisa Dahlkvist converted to seal a 4-3 Sweden win.
“We had that style of play when Pia was our coach,” Solo expanded, per Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated. “I don’t think they’re going to to go far in the tournament. I think it was very cowardly. But they won. They’re moving on and we’re going home.”
The quarterfinals loss represents the earliest loss ever in a major tournament for the U.S. women, who won the World Cup in Canada last summer. The USA has been particularly dominant in the Olympics, winning the gold medal in 1996, when women’s soccer was first included, 2004, 2008 and 2012. The U.S. won silver in 2000.
After getting blasted by Solo after Friday’s match, Sundhage delivered a solid comeback: I don’t give a crap. I’m going to Rio, she’s going home.
Solo and Sundhage have a bit of history.
Sundhage: Solo is ‘a piece of work’
Sundhage, who is Swedish, coached the U.S. from 2008 until 2012, when she became coach for Sweden.
Before the U.S. and Sweden played in last summer’s World Cup, Sundhage called Solo a “piece of work” while acknowledging her vast talent.
“Shes a piece of work,” Sundhage said of Solo. “But thats good as well. Things happen around her … Shes the best goalkeeper in the world, so why wouldnt you try to make her happy? And at the same time, she has a team spirit. Its a little bit of a bumpy road.”
Solo has been entangled in controversy before.
Zika virus and domestic violence
Crowds in Brazil booed Solo and chanted “zika” at her during Olympics matches this month after the goalkeeper bluntly expressed concerns about the mosquito-borne virus prior to the tournament. In 2014, Solo reportedly threatened police officers who arrested her after an alleged domestic violence incident in which she fought a nephew.
She elaborated on her “cowards” quote a bit later on Friday but stopped well short of apologizing.
“Losing sucks,” Solo posted to Twitter. “I’m really bad at it.”
She told Wahl more.
Just heard from Hope Solo. Here’s what she had to say. pic.twitter.com/qnWgRirUjE
Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 12, 2016
A sore loser and an all-time great on the pitch
Thus ends a bitter coda to the USA’s earliest-ever exit from a major women’s soccer tournament just one year after winning the World Cup, no less.
So, is Solo a sore loser? Perhaps.
But she’s also won a pair of Olympic gold medals, won a World Cup and is universally regarded as one of the best women’s soccer goalkeepers of all time.
The two might be related.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.