USWNT sleepwalks into Olympic knockout stage, where their current form won't cut it

TOKYO - Here are two of the best things to say about Tuesday's 0-0 draw between the United States and Australia women's football teams.
1. Due to local COVID restrictions, no real fans paid any money to watch this pillow fight.
2. The game took place in the United States in the middle of the night, so hopefully most of the American fans just overslept.
Since both teams only needed a tie to get into the knockout round of the Olympics, they played a cautious, sleepy, mostly useless game.
The Americans advance to the quarter-finals, which will be played on Friday at 7 a.m. ET. You will likely face either the Netherlands or Brazil.
What kind of team they'll put on the pitch is unclear. After that there is certainly not much left to say.
It was one of those days for Alex Morgan, 13, and the USWNT, maybe on purpose. (Photo by SHINJI AKAGI / AFP via Getty Images)
The US had recalled a goal from Alex Morgan when she was slightly sidelined before heading into the net for a serve from Kelley O'Hara. Morgan had another scoring opportunity early on. And Australia had a header hit partially off the crossbar. The teams combined only six shots on the net.
Other than that, large parts of the game were inherently sloppy, non-competitive, or downright boring. Australia controlled the ball 61 percent of the time, largely because it just fitted into the defense. In particular, footage from the second half should be burned and buried to save innocent children from ever witnessing it.
Getting out of the group stage and retaining the energy for the upcoming sprint for the gold medal was apparently the priority for both clubs.
For the USA, a duel against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals would be a remake of the 2019 World Cup final, which the Americans won 2-0. Brazil has been a long-time rival and is coached by former US coach Pia Sundhage, who celebrated many successes against her old team.
The good news for the US, who finished with four points in Group G, is that they will continue to hold archenemy Sweden, who delivered a shocking 3-0 last week, through to the final on Jan.
It is uncertain whether the Americans will actually be able to cope with the Swedes when they see them again. Sweden won all three games in the group game and appeared to be the team to beat here, not the number 1 Americans in the world.
However, it is now new to the USWNT, which they know well. At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, they won their group only to be beaten 1-0 by Sweden in the quarter-finals. It was the earliest exit from a major international tournament ever for the United States.
This time they have to do the opposite. The loss to Sweden ended an unbeaten streak of 44 games and shook the Americans. They rebounded with a 6-1 win over a weak New Zealand team, but that proved little.
Australia represented a better test and a fairer fight, but little happened, perhaps on purpose.
Either way, it works now. The Americans are trying to be the first country to follow a world title with Olympic gold.
If they can do it, they have to play better than they showed. Or in the case of this game, just pretty much just play.
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