Red Stars keeper Alyssa Naeher on loss to Sweden on Sunday: ‘We just lost the World Cup by a millimeter’

Alyssa Naeher, goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s national team and the Red Stars, lunged at the ball before it bounced off her gloves, then she punched it away. But it was ruled over the line. “I thought I had it,” Naeher said.

SHARE Red Stars keeper Alyssa Naeher on loss to Sweden on Sunday: ‘We just lost the World Cup by a millimeter’
United States’ Megan Rapinoe (third from left) hugs United States’ goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher at the end of the Women’s World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Sweden and the United States in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday.

United States’ Megan Rapinoe (third from left) hugs United States’ goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher at the end of the Women’s World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Sweden and the United States in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday.

Hamish Blair/AP

Alyssa Naeher, goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s national team and the Red Stars, did what she could Sunday against Sweden, diving to make a save during the penalty shootout and converting her own kick to briefly give the United States a 4-3 lead.

But in the end, it was a millimeter that made the difference. Forward Lina Hurtig scored to clinch the shootout 5-4 as Sweden ousted the two-time reigning champion United States from the World Cup in the Round 16 after a scoreless draw in regulation and extra time.

Naeher lunged at the ball before it bounced off her gloves, then she punched it away. She thought she had saved Hurtig’s attempt, but it was ruled over the line by VAR.

“I thought I had it,” Naeher told Fox Sports. “Unfortunately, it just slipped in. That’s a tough one.

“We just lost the World Cup by a millimeter.’’

Before the penalty kick that sealed the U.S. team’s fate, Naeher converted her own penalty kick, but it wasn’t enough for the Americans. Megan Rapinoe, Kelley O’Hara and Sophia Smith missed their attempts before Hurtig’s kick sealed the Americans’ early exit.

“I hurt for [that trio],” Naeher said to Fox Sports. “It’s tough. They’ve trained for it, they prepare for it and, unfortunately, those things happen. My heart hurts for them because I know how much they put into it.”

Despite the heartbreaking loss, Naeher said she was proud of her teammates:

United States’ goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher kicks the ball during the Women’s World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Sweden and the United States in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday.

United States’ goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher kicks the ball during the Women’s World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Sweden and the United States in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday.

Scott Barbour/AP

“I am proud of the fight of the team. We knew we hadn’t done our best in the group stage, and we wanted a complete team performance, and the team came out and played great.”

Despite coming in as the two-time defending champions, the Americans were heavily criticized after three group-stage games, including a scoreless draw against Portugal and a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands. While the team as a whole struggled during the World Cup, Naeher picked up her seventh World Cup shutout after the 0-0 draw in regulation and extra time, according to U.S. Soccer. Naeher ranks third all time in USWNT World Cup shutouts behind Hope Solo (10) and Briana Scurry (9).

Contributing: AP

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