The United States women’s team’s dream of regaining their Olympic crown ended with a 1-0 defeat by Canada in the semi-finals on Monday, leaving veteran Megan Rapinoe admitting the competition had been a “struggle”.
The US came into the tournament as world champions and heavy favourites but they started badly with a 3-0 loss to Sweden, and bowed out after failing to produce a shot on target for the opening hour against the Canadians.
“It sucks. Obviously, you never want to lose, you never want to lose in a world championship, you never want to lose to Canada, obviously, and you never want to lose playing the way we did,” Rapinoe told reporters.
Apart from a 6-1 hammering of New Zealand in the group stage, the Americans never got close to the levels they have shown in recent years and they needed a penalty shootout win over the Netherlands to reach the last four.
“We need to look at ourselves and need to perform better, period. We don’t have the juice because the ball is banging off our shins, and we’re not finding open passes, not doing the simple things,” said Rapinoe, after the first loss to their Northern neighbours in over 20 years.
“We can deep dive into analysing, but there’s all the preparation and analysing you can do and all the tactics and then there’s everything else. You can’t put a name on everything else, but that’s what we were missing,” she added.
Rapinoe suggested the Americans were missing enjoyment in their play.
“Football always needs joy, when the game is really played at its best, you have it. I feel like we haven’t been able to do that,” she said.
“Everything has been a little bit of a struggle, passes off here and there. I hope we find it, I love playing with a big smile on my face, I think everybody else does as well.”
Now the US are left with a bronze medal game against the losers of the other semi-final between Sweden and Australia as their only chance of consolation.
“We obviously had goals of winning a gold medal, but any medal is really special, we can’t lose sight of that. Especially considering the year everyone has been through, with what it’s taken to be here, what it takes to play on the women’s national team,” Rapinoe said.