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Women’s World Cup: Sweden plays the long game before loss to U.S.

Sweden v USA: Group F - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France
Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson confers with players during Thursday’s game agasint the United States on Friday.
(Alex Grimm / Getty Images)

In the lead-up to Thursday’s final game in Women’s World Cup group play, U.S. coach Jill Ellis repeatedly was asked whether she would consider playing a second team against Sweden in hopes of finishing second in the group and getting an easier road through to the final.

Turns out everybody was asking the wrong coach. Sweden’s Peter Gerhardsson did that very thing, making seven changes to his lineup before Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the U.S., then admitting afterward he didn’t care if his team won the group.

“We know we have a knockout match on Monday and that’s the most important game,” said Gerhardsson, whose team will face Canada, ranked fifth in the world, in the round of 16. “When we looked at the game plan, we didn’t think in advance that it was important to end up first or second. We knew there wouldn’t be a lot of time between the matches.

“Monday is the most important match, so that was my number one priority when I picked my lineup.”

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Ellis didn’t seem to be buying that explanation.

“After the game that might be a fair comment,” she said to laughter. “If there’s a decision to rest players, I don’t think that’s not caring about the game. That’s thinking ahead. For us it was very important for to think about what we right in front of us. That was our focus.

“Whatever their motivation is, at this time it’s irrelevant. The game’s behind us.”

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Medical report

Ellis left one player from her best 11 on the bench: midfielder Julie Ertz, who learned Wednesday she would be rested because of a hip contusion. Alex Morgan then came out of the game at halftime after taking a knock in the 33rd minute.

Ellis said both moves were precautionary and she expects the players to be available for Monday’s knockout-round game with Spain.

“It was just more ‘let’s be smart about this,’ ” she said. “It’s a zero-risk game in terms of having players available for the next game.”

Invisible marks

Carli Lloyd didn’t score Thursday, which is newsworthy since it was the first time she appeared in a Women’s World Cup game without scoring since the final group-stage match of the 2015 tournament.

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The six straight games with a goal — nine goals in all — is a Women’s World Cup record and it matches the men’s record, last accomplished in 1970. Asked whether she was sad to see her record streak end, Lloyd furrowed her brow and asked, “What streak?”

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Given the details she seemed even less interested.

“I don’t care,” she said. “I just want to win.”

One number Lloyd may care about is 277, which is the total of international games she has now played in, passing Mia Hamm for third on the all-time U.S. list. It was also her 21st World Cup appearance. If the U.S. reaches the final and Lloyd plays in the four remaining games, she’ll tie Abby Wambach for second on the all-time U.S. World Cup list.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11


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