AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — The United States is the two-time reigning tournament champions and ranked No. 1 in the world. But their lackluster play in the group stage stopped the Americans from winning their group, which knocked them down to second and a Sunday match against Sweden in the round of 16.

Sweden is ranked third in the world and won its group by sweeping all three games. The seventh World Cup meeting between the two teams — the most frequent matchup in tournament history — will be played in Melbourne, Australia.


One of the top players in women’s soccer will end her World Cup career after the match between the United States and Sweden.

Megan Rapinoe, the Golden Boot winner of the 2019 tournament with six goals and three assists for the Americans, has said she will retire after the World Cup. Same for Sweden midfielder Caroline Seger, who said her fifth World Cup will be her last.

Both teams want to win Sunday to ensure their superstar centerpiece can continue in the tournament. For Seger, the World Cup is the one gap on her resume.

Seger’s 235 appearances for Sweden are the most for any female player in Europe, and although she has two Olympic silver medals and two World Cup bronze medals, Sweden has never won a major tournament. Seger’s teammates don’t want to see her career end without a chance to play for the World Cup title.

“We get very, very motivated by that,” defender Nathalie Bjorn said. “We will have full focus on Sunday. We will do everything we can as a team, as individuals, then we will make sure we knock out the U.S.”

The 38-year-old Seger has been struggling wit a calf problem all year and trained alone in the two days of practice leading into the showdown with the U.S.

Rapinoe, meanwhile, has taken on a smaller role for the Americans in her final tournament. Also 38, she was a substitute in the United States’ first and third games of group play and didn’t get off the bench in the middle match.

American striker Alex Morgan said both Rapinoe and Seger have had “incredible” careers.

“I’m very optimistic about our chances tomorrow, but regardless, these are players that have really changed the game,” Morgan said. “Not only in Sweden and the U.S. but globally. Having been able to play with both of them, they’re great teammates and have been leaders for so long at the highest stage. They’re huge impact players.”

The U.S. scored just four goals in the opening stage, but Rapinoe said she wasn’t overly concerned about what has appeared to be a lackluster start to the tournament — the team still managed to advance. And she clearly didn’t want her World Cup journey to end just yet.

“We got out of the group what we wanted to get out of the group, which was to get to the next round,” Rapinoe said. “Obviously, we want to win the games. Obviously, we want to play great and score a bunch of goals. And we didn’t do that. So we know that that can be better.”

The U.S. will play without Rose Lavelle, who picked up her second yellow card of the tournament in the group stage finale and has to sit out against Sweden.

The Americans also trained without veteran defender Kelley O’Hara on Saturday.

Despite the U.S. team’s struggles, Sweden isn’t expecting anything less than the best.

“We’re super excited. We’re playing against the U.S., they’re No. 1 in the world, you can never underestimate them,” Sweden midfielder Kosovare Asllani said.

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