Women's World Cup 2019: USA's Jill Ellis expects challenge from Sweden, but isn't worried about past

The Americans and Swedes, set to play their sixth match in the World Cup, have a rich history after meeting 38 times.

Jill Ellis

Head coach Jill Ellis at a USA press conference during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France at Stade Oceane on Wednesday in Le Havre, France.   -  Getty Images

The U.S. Women's National Team hasn't faced much of a challenge through the first two games of the group stage at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, but coach Jill Ellis expects that to change in Friday's match. 

"I've obviously watched film and I've watched Sweden and I think it's going to be a very intense game, very combative game," Ellis told reporters on Wednesday.

"A game with a lot of transition, a game that's going to be fiercely competed inside the 18 on both ends. It's a game where both teams have a lot of experience in terms of where they're at. I think it's going to be a great game."

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The Americans and Swedes, set to play in their sixth match in the World Cup, have a rich history after meeting 38 times. One of the last times they met on a major international stage came during the 2011 tournament, which resulted in a 2-1 loss for the Americans. Another noteworthy loss came when Sweden knocked the USWNT out of the 2016 Rio Olympics in the quarterfinals.

"The team feels very different than the group that we took to the Olympics, but at the same time I remember in 2015, the feeling that the group had from the 2011 loss," forward Christen Press told reporters.

"That really motivated people and carried us through that tournament, and I think that despite the fact that it's been three years, you don't forget the taste in your mouth when you fail and you lose a world championship. I think there's definitely a bit of that that will act as motivation and you always play to win and to never have that feeling again."

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Despite the two teams' storied past, the Americans' focus is on the present and what they can do going forward. 

"Players and coaches are not focused on what was, we're focused on what will be and that's really where you have to be," Ellis said. "You've got to look forward. The players — it's a different team, it's a different time. The past is irrelevant. The game in front of you is the critical piece for us."

Ellis explained that while Friday's match will be the most competitive for the U.S. up until this point of the tournament, the game will give the Americans a chance to fine-tune and make adjustments as they enter the knockout Round of 16.

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"This is why it's such a good game for us because it's going to be a game to really work on some of the things that we're going to need as we advance to the next round," Ellis said. "I think the performance piece is the number one thing for us — giving our players a good test against a good side."

The winner of Friday's game will top Group F and move on to face Spain in the Round of 16, while the loser will face whoever finishes second in Group E ⁠⁠⁠— either the Netherlands or Canada.

The U.S.-Sweden match kicks off at 12.30am (IST) at Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France.

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