Rio 2016: United States, Sweden battle for semifinal spot
Rio 2016: United States, Sweden battle for semifinal spot

The United States entered the Rio 2016 Olympics as a gold medal favorite. Sweden entered hoping to end up on the podium. The United States are ranked number one in the world entering the Olympics while Sweden is ranked sixth. These two teams will be competing against each other in a quarterfinals match, with the United States the favorite to win. 

Team USA coming off worst game of Rio so far

The United States started off hot with a 2-0 win over New Zealand, then beat third in the world France 1-0. The United States then played their worst game of the tournament, allowing two goals to Colombia, who was one of the worst performing teams in the tournament for a 2-2 tie for Colombia's only point of the Olympics.

Sweden is coming off a scoreless tie with China PR, who they also tied with in the standings. The game before that, however, the Swedish lost 5-1 to the Brazilian team for what should be the worst match of the tournament for them.

Carli Lloyd will need another good day to beat Sweden

Carli Lloyd of the United States celebrating after scoring a goal at the Rio Olympics. Photo Credit: Pedro Vilela of Getty South America
Carli Lloyd of the United States celebrating after scoring a goal at the Rio Olympics | Pedro Vilela - Getty South America

Carli Lloyd has been the leader of the United States team, and will need to continue to be for the rest of the Olympics. She scored the only goal in the game against France and was a key part in the United States earning the top seed in the group.

Alex Morgan will also need to finish the Olympics strong as well. As the United States' best striker, if she can score some goals in key moments it will certainly help the United States down the line.

The final key to victory will be holding the strike forces they face the rest of the Olympics to a goal or less. Hope Solo will continue to be crucial to the team's success the rest of the Olympics at the goalkeeper position. 

Sweden needs a great game from goalkeeper and strikers to beat the U.S.

The key to winning this game for the Sweden team will be playing great defense and keep the United States team, particularly Morgan and Lloyd off the scoreboard. Sweden has allowed five goals, but like the United States, enter with two shutouts from their other two games. If Sweden repeats this type of defensive performance, they should have a chance as well.

Sweden won't be able to win by keeping the United States off the scoreboard by itself, they will still have to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net as well. Sweden enters with only two one-goal games from the group stage (first three games) and will need to get at least one goal to beat the United States with no ties for the rest of the Olympic soccer tournament.

Lindahl Hedvig and Nilla Fischer of Sweden look dejected during the Olympic Women's Football match between Brazil and Sweden at Olympic Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Lindahl Hedvig and Nilla Fischer of Sweden will need to have a much better game than they had against Brazil | Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Sweden's leading goal scorers in international competition are Lotta Schelin and Caroline Seger. If neither of them can get on the scoreboard, it will come down to some of the newer names and whether they are able to get a ball past Solo. The Colombian team managed to do it twice, so why not Sweden?

Teams recent finishes in international play benefits U.S.

The United States team may not have Abby Wambach anymore, but the United States team has done well so far in Rio without her. With her, the United States have recently won the World Cup in Canada last year, but will they be able to win their first major international tournament without her?

Meanwhile, for Sweden, the last time they made the bronze medal game of the Olympics was the 2004 games in Athens, Greece when they finished fourth after losing the bronze medal game. The Swedish team does have a much better record in the FIFA Women's World Cup with a second place finish in 2003, a third place finish in 1991 and 2011, and a round of 16 finish in the most recent World Cup in 2015.

The United States will likely be the hardest matchup the Sweden team has to face in the Olympics. If they can find a way to upset the U.S., they could potentially win the national team's first Olympic medal in team history.

Final prediction:

The United States wins in extra time 1-0 in a tight defensive game.

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