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U.S. women beat Sweden at World Cup 2-0, complete group play undefeated

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United States' Lindsey Horan, third right, scores opening goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Sweden at the Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France on June 20, 2019. -
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Christophe Ena AP
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Lindsey Horan scored and Tobin Heath's tight-angle kick helped the United States earn a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Sweden at the Women's World Cup in France on Thursday.

With the win at Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France, the Americans completed Group F play undefeated and advanced to a round-of-16 knockout match against Spain on Monday.

The defending World Cup-champion Americans broke though less than three minutes into the match when a corner kick by Megan Rapinoe sailed through a sea of legs before Sam Mewis tapped the ball on to Horan's right foot.

Horan, a 25-year-old from Golden, Colorado, did not miss from close range, in the fastest goal of this tournament.

Heath gave her team breathing room in the 50th minute, flicking the ball into the goal from a seemingly impossible angle. She was originally credited with the goal, but it was later declared an own goal as the ball apparently went off of defender Jonna Andersson and over goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.

After 13-0 and 3-0 American wins to begin this tournament, Thursday's match had figured to be the Americans' first tough challenge of the competition.

The upper echelons of women's soccer is an exclusive club with only four nations winning the seven World Cup titles since the tournament began in 1991. Only seven sides have even played for the title, one of them being Sweden in 2003.

The American victory also served a small measure of revenge for the one the U.S. program's most crushing losses, at the feet of the Swedes at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Alex Morgan and Christan Press failed to convert in a penalty-kick tiebreaker that kept the United States off the medal podium.

Then-U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo famously called Sweden "cowards" for conservative play, that seemed aimed at forcing the match into penalties.

Now the Americans get to stay put and look forward to their round-of-16 match, which will also be played at Stade Oceane in Le Havre. It's slated to kick off at 6 p.m. local time and noon ET and be televised onFox Sports 1 and Telemundo.

Looking ahead, the bracket now sets up America for a possible quarterfinal clash against host France. If both sides with their next matches, America and its oldest ally would meet on the women's soccer stage a week from Friday in Paris with a spot in the semifinals at stake.

This is the eighth Women's World Cup and the United States has gone 3-0 in group play three times before — strong, early performances that led to two championships (1991, 1999) and one third-place finish (2003).

The American women are playing in top form, even as they fight in court against their own association.

The players are demanding better compensation and an end to the "institutionalized gender discrimination" that's also medical treatment, travel arrangements and overall workload.