Naeher the hero as USWNT avoid Olympic shootout heartbreak against Netherlands

Megan Rapinoe converted the deciding penalty in a shootout and the United States advanced to the semi-finals of the women’s Olympic soccer tournament 4-2 following a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands on Friday.

US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher stopped Vivianne Miedema’s opening attempt in the shootout and then saved a another from Aniek Nouwen before Rapinoe put her penalty away. It was Naeher’s third penalty save of the match after she had stopped Lieke Martens’s effort in the 81st minute, which would have given the Dutch a 3-2 lead.

Naeher was as cool following the game as she was during it, playing down her own performance while lauding her teammates.

“This team just kept pushing for 90 minutes, 120 minutes, and we just kept believing that we were going to find a way to get it done,” Naeher said. “Very proud of the four players to step up and score their four penalties to go four-for-four. That is huge.”

After Rapinoe scored, she turned to her teammates, folded her arms and grinned in triumph. “I just try to stay calm. I always say to myself, ‘The worst that’s going to happen is you’re going to lose the whole thing,”’ she said with a smile after the game.

Miedema scored a pair of goals in regulation time for the Netherlands, giving her 10 goals for the tournament an Olympic record.

“I felt amazing. I should have taken the penalty in the game,” Miedema said. “I should have just stuck with my plan and go from there. But it’s life. It’s football and I just need to move on.”

Miedema put the Netherlands ahead in the 18th minute but the Americans equalized when Sam Mewis headed in a goal off a feed from Lynn Williams in the 28th. Williams then gave the Americans the lead in the 31st. Miedema, who was playing in her 100th game for the Netherlands, made it 2-2 in the 54th.

The United States will next face Canada in Kashima on Monday. The Canadians advanced to the semi-finals 4-3 on penalties after a scoreless draw with Brazil in Rifu.

Naeher the hero as USWNT avoid Olympic shootout heartbreak against Netherlands
Alyssa Naeher saves Netherlands’ first penalty in Friday’s shootout. Photograph: François Nel/Getty Images

The Americans were playing in a shootout for the fifth time in a major tournament. The last time was at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, when the US were beaten by Sweden in the quarter-finals.

United States coach Vlatko Andonovski tinkered with his lineup for Friday’s match, with Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Rose Lavelle on the bench at the start.

The grueling game was the latest hurdle in what has been a particularly uncharacteristic tournament for the United States. The normally stalwart Americans lost to Sweden 3-0 in their opener before beating New Zealand 6-1. They then advanced to the knockout round following a 0-0 draw with Australia. The United States hadn’t been shutout since 2017.

In Rifu, Canada goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe stopped Rafaelle’s attempt and was rushed by her teammates. Canada have won bronze medals at the last two Olympics.

Australia earned their first trip to the semi-finals by beating Great Britain 4-3 in extra time in Kashima. The Matildas will face Sweden, who beat host Japan 3-1 in Saitama.