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Why the U.S. will be its best possible self in showdown against Sweden

Why the U.S. will be its best possible self in showdown against Sweden

The World Cup title of four years ago is history. The present continues Thursday (3 p.m. ET), when the United States plays Sweden in its final World Cup group Buy FIFA 20 Coins Online game.

This is a showdown for the Americans that really began three years ago against the same opponent. Cowardice and courage had nothing to do with what happened when the U.S played Sweden in a 2016 Olympic quarterfinal, no matter how much those characterizations defined the day once Hope Solo uttered them following a penalty shootout that eliminated the U.S. before the semifinals of a major tournament for the first time.

Sweden wasn't cowardly to cede possession, protect its goal and look for chances to send attackers on a lightning raid. And if the U.S. showed courage in throwing itself at those defenses for 120 minutes during a 1-1 stalemate, it was also obstinately unimaginative in its valor.So while Thursday's game between old rivals determines the path each will travel into the knockout stage in this tournament, it also tests how far the U.S. has come in three years. For this team, which retains 15 of 20 players from the 2016 Olympics and only 11 of 23 from the 2015 World Cup, playing Sweden is a reminder that this tournament isn't about retaining a title as much as reclaiming an identity.

"I don't necessarily think of the World Cup as often as I do the Olympics," midfielder Julie Ertz said of the role of reigning champion before the tournament. "I know this is the World Cup, so a lot of people ask about the last World Cup. But the last World Cup wasn't the most recent tournament. For me, if anything, I have a bitter taste in my mouth because the last thing I remember is losing to Sweden."

In the months between winning their most recent World Cup and watching Sweden celebrate at the United States' expense in the Olympics, Lauren Holiday, Christie Rampone and Abby Wambach retired. Solo was banished after her comments, never to return to the national team. In their places came Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh, all of whom are playing their first major tournament.An alternate who traveled with the team in Brazil -- her first major tournament trip at the senior level -- Sam Mewis recalled walking back to her hotel room in gleeful shock when she got to keep a bag of swag that Alex Morgan's sponsors provided to players. It was a new world.

A few days ago, Mewis started and scored twice in a World Cup game. That's a lot of change in three years, both for the individuals involved and for the team incorporating them into a coherent whole.

"I was young and kind of just out there doing my thing," Pugh recalled. "I remember the older players saying we were so disappointed, and I realized, 'Yeah, we lost in the quarterfinals, and that's not something the U.S. does.'"

The U.S. was a team with one foot almost unavoidably in the past and one in the future, straddling a precarious present. It could have survived that game against Sweden, as any penalty shootout is essentially a coin flip. It might even have gone on and won a tournament that lacked a dominant team. Such is the luxury of the deepest talent pool on the planet. But win or lose, the U.S. was far removed being the best possible version of itself.

"That was three years ago, right after a lot of people retired from the team," Dunn said. "We were definitely rebuilding and trying to figure out a new identity in a sense following the World Cup. But I think we did a good job of ironing out all the details and moving on from that game."Want to buy mut 19 coins from

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