Sweden did what the United States could not: It got the goals it needed, secured the win it wanted, and marched toward the game everyone expected.
Propelled by a second-half header by Rebecka Blomqvist and a late penalty kick by Elin Rubensson, Sweden earned a 2-0 victory in Hamilton, New Zealand, that sent Argentina out of the World Cup and the Swedes into a highly anticipated round of 16 game against the Americans on Sunday in Melbourne.
It will be joined in the round of 16 by South Africa, which stunned Italy, 3-2, with a goal by Thembi Kgatlana two minutes into second-half injury time.
The goal sent South Africa to the knockouts for the first time. It will face the Netherlands on Sunday in Sydney.
The bigger showcase that day, though, will be the United States-Sweden matchup that had loomed as a possibility for weeks. It really should come as no surprise: The teams will meet for the sixth straight World Cup, and for the seventh time overall in the tournament.
The Americans have won four of the previous five meetings, including a 2-0 victory in the group stage four years ago. But Sweden ran circles around the United States two years later at the Tokyo Olympics.
Its main advantage over the United States this time, though, may be momentum. Sweden has looked fearsome so far at this World Cup, winning all three of its first-round games and outscoring its opponents by 10-1.
Andrew Das joined The Times in 2006. An assistant editor in Sports, he helps direct coverage of soccer, the Olympics and international sports. More about Andrew Das
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