No soccer team on the planet tests our brains’ ability to understand and process nuance like the United States women’s national team.
In their heartbreaking Round of 16 loss to Sweden — one that came by the narrowest of narrow margins — the USWNT played like the better team. They extinguished Sweden’s threat on set pieces. They controlled the game between the two boxes. They created more and better chances than their opponents, just like they had in every prior game at this World Cup.
And yet? They’re going home earlier than ever before.
In some ways, it’s brutally cruel for the United States. Being better than your opponent and still heading home after a slip in the box here and a penalty kick just barely crossing the line there is a tough pill to swallow. In more ways, though, the U.S.’s fate at this World Cup is exceedingly fitting for a team that has constantly disappointed and under-delivered throughout manager Vlatko Andonovski’s tenure.
So, even with a heavy dose of nuance and some dismal fortune, the United States’ World Cup run and Andonovski’s time in charge of the team have now both ended the same way: in failure.