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FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Sweden vs USWNT – tactical preview tactical analysis tactics

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: How Sweden can exploit USWNT’s average run of form – tactical preview

Sweden will be facing the USWNT tomorrow at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, also called AAMI Park, in the Round of 16 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, and this encounter will represent one of the most iconic and recurrent clashes of Women’s Football in recent times — both teams know each other very well.

This game is now becoming the most-played matchup in FIFA Women’s World Cup history, with seven overall encounters in World Cups and 43 matches in general. Although USWNT have the historical advantage over Sweden, especially if we consider the direct encounters’ statistics which indicate 23 wins for USWNT, 12 draws and seven wins for Sweden, the latter are actually looking better during this tournament and have a slight mental advantage over their opponents.

This advantage is mainly related to the performances and the number of points acquired during the group stage: Sweden were able to top their group G with nine points and three convincing wins against Italy, South Africa and Argentina. On the other hand, USWNT struggled to finish at the top of Group E since they beat Vietnam 3-0 but drew against the Netherlands and against Portugal.

The USWNT will therefore have to fix what is not working in terms of tactics and psychological aspects as well in order to face Sweden with a more helpful approach and avoid conceding a painful loss against a historic rival while aiming to surprise everyone and win as “underdogs” this time.

For Sweden, it will be essential to keep the morale high while not letting their confidence turn into overconfidence by trying to approach the match with the same level of accuracy, determination and concentration of the last few games while improving what went wrong in the group stage to avoid a USWNT victory.

In this tactical analysis article, our focus and analysis will be centred around both teams’ strengths and weaknesses, what to improve and what to avoid in this match and their possible line-ups and formations.

Possible formations and line-ups

To begin with, it should be said that Sweden have had the opportunity to rest some of their starting players in their game against Argentina, which will help them have some more “fresh legs” than USWNT.

Peter Gerhardsson would more likely opt for the 4-2-3-1 formation if no surprises happen with Chelsea‘s Zećira Mušović as a goalkeeper, Nathalie Bjorn, Arsenal’s Amanda Ilestedt, Bayern Munich‘s Magdalena Eriksson and Jonna Andersson in defence, Filippa Angeldal and Elin Rubensson as central midfielders with Caroline Seger as a possible sub for Rubensson in the second half, Barcelona‘s Fridolina Rolfö and Johanna Kaneryd on the wings and Kosovare Asllani playing as an advanced playmaker and sometimes as a second striker beside the main striker Stina Blackstenius.

Lina Hurtig can also represent a very impactful sub in the second half, especially if things don’t go as planned for Sweden attacking-wise. This was the team’s same line-up of the match against Italy since we believe that such a line-up is the most powerful one Sweden can rely on during such a decisive knockout match.


For the USWNT, Vlatko Andonovski would most likely opt for the 4-3-3 formation as the players are used to this formation and can be more dangerous from an attacking perspective when playing according to this system since it suits the players’ abilities and Andonovski’s ideas.

He would start the match with Alyssa Naeher as a goalkeeper, Emily Fox, Julie Ertz, Naomi Girma and Crystal Dunn in defence, Andi Sullivan as a defensive midfielder, Lindsey Horan as a left midfielder and Ashley Sanchez as a right midfielder instead of Savannah DeMelo in order to provide more attacking threats and support thanks to her dangerous penetrations and pace.

Upfront, the trio would be composed of Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith on both wings, with Alex Morgan as a striker. Plus, Lynn Williams can provide a great addition in attack if things don’t go as planned in that department.


FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Sweden vs USWNT – tactical preview tactical analysis tactics

What do Sweden need to focus on to beat USWNT?

Sweden have been putting together some convincing performances during the group stage and didn’t qualify at the top of a tricky group by chance but rather thanks to a well-organised defence that didn’t concede any goal apart from the goal of South Africa in the first match.

Following that goal, Sweden avoided conceding goals mainly thanks to their defensive compactness, the midfielders’ correct positioning in crucial moments, and their continuous support of the defensive line. South Africa’s goal, however, highlights an error that should be avoided against a team with quick and experienced attacking players like the USWNT because, in this goal action, Andersson didn’t react quickly to her direct opponent’s run and was therefore left behind mainly because she was looking at the ball more than looking on her direct marker.

This type of marking often leads to forwards having the advantage to win the ball ahead of defenders because defenders lose some precious time when focusing on the ball and then checking on the forward occasionally. Also, it is vital to always turn towards the marked player and not have her against her back.

Avoiding such marking errors would certainly reduce the chances of conceding goals against USWNT. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that USWNT’s forwards are more dangerous than those of Italy, South Africa and Argentina, and therefore, overconfidence when defending can easily lead to a disaster.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Sweden vs USWNT – tactical preview tactical analysis tactics

Image credit: FIFA Plus

From an attacking perspective, Sweden have been excellent in terms of set-pieces so far and used this tool in their favour remarkably. Sweden have been using this set-piece weapon significantly since matchday one with Rolfö or Asllani in delivery, especially from corners and Ilestedt on the receiving end of crosses, mainly on the near post.

Sweden succeeded in scoring goals thanks to this system and can also score against USWNT according to the same plan.

However, scoring such goals against the USWNT would be a bit more complicated this time because their defenders will surely be prepared following Sweden’s set-piece success thus far, and Ilestedt would be tightly marked if not heavily disturbed.

Sweden will have to try one or two other dangerous alternatives in terms of set-pieces to avoid being predictable and aim at surprising the USWNT defence with a new approach, such as crossing to the far post to a particular player who would then provide a header to Ilestedt on the near post. A lot of other different plays can be used, yet the essential thing is to execute them accurately and precisely as planned to succeed.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Sweden vs USWNT – tactical preview tactical analysis tactics

Image credit: FIFA Plus

Apart from set pieces, Sweden have got plenty of ideas to use in open play to disturb USWNT and try to break their lines and score goals. Relying on crosses from both sides to Blackstenius could prove successful, especially when knowing that Blackstenius (and especially Hurtig, who is even better in the air) can play on Ertz on purpose since the latter cannot really be at 100% physically for an entire match yet given her long absence and her age.

This can be exploited by providing critical passes at the back of the defensive line, especially by Asllani, who can be very useful in this regard while also pushing the two wingers to penetrate and cut inside as often as possible to create numerical superiority centrally and oblige the USWNT into committing mistakes.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Sweden vs USWNT – tactical preview tactical analysis tactics

Image credit: FIFA Plus

USWNT: How to avoid defeat?

To avoid a painful loss against Sweden, the USWNT will most importantly have to be much more compact and attentive in defence than in the group stage to limit Sweden’s various attacking threats and be able to attack without being behind in the score.

Avoiding conceding an early goal would help USWNT a lot in this match as it would give them the confidence and tranquillity needed to start playing the way they like and get rid of the stress and preoccupation of beginning the match negatively.

Moreover, defenders in this game will have to be very reactive and fit in order to avoid penetrations or key passes into space. Plus, it would be safer for the team to opt for a low defensive block to limit Sweden’s counterattacking threat and avoid situations like the one shown below against Portugal.

Being slow in recovering during counterattacks after using a high defensive block can cost the USWNT a lot in this match, mainly because the defenders lack the agility needed to retreat quickly. And that’s why it would be risky to opt for a high defensive block throughout the match.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Sweden vs USWNT – tactical preview tactical analysis tactics

Image credit: FIFA Plus

From an attacking perspective, taking some risks will be necessary from Andonovski and using more players with attacking flair and abilities in one vs one would be crucial. Players like Sanchez and Lynn Williams can make a big difference in this match as they bring dynamism, the ability to put the team in attacking numerical superiority and excellent goalscoring skills as well.

Playing Sanchez as a third midfielder will be considered a risky decision but a needed one to disturb Sweden and not allow them to attack so often but rather be obliged to defend and retreat more often.

Moreover, Sanchez can be used as an advanced playmaker if switching the formation to a 4-2-3-1 with Horan and Sullivan as central midfielders. This switch can occur during the match to put extra pressure on Sweden when needed.

Forwards will have to be a bit more accurate in finishing, too, as it would be fundamental to avoid missing chances like the ones missed against Portugal. And even if one of the forwards is not “having her best day”, resorting to recurrent key passes at the back of the defence from Sanchez or Horan, for instance, would be helpful. Another good solution would be to opt for surprising shots from distance, knowing that numerous USWNT players have excellent shooting skills.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Sweden vs USWNT – tactical preview tactical analysis tactics

Image credit: FIFA Plus


Sweden have got an advantage in winning the game on paper, mainly thanks to their more convincing performances during the group stage phase. However, this will not mean anything on matchday if the players won’t play with the same determination and focus as in the previous games, knowing that they would surely need some even more concentration and organisation to not lose against a tough team like the USWNT, even if they do not have their best form yet.

For the USWNT, this is the team’s biggest and probably last chance to improve their performances and return to their winning ways. Being considered the underdogs for this match might benefit the Americans since it would put more pressure on Sweden and less pressure on them. Nevertheless, it would be crucial to defend well in this match and avoid conceding early goals to have equal chances and be able to threaten Sweden.