U.S. edges Japan for gold, payback
|United States' Christie Rampone (3) celebrates with teammate Hope Solo (1) after winning the women's soccer gold medal match against Japan at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday in London.|
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WEMBLEY, England – Abby Wambach didn’t put on her “Greatness Has Been Found” T-shirt right away. She instead strayed from her teammates and knelt alone at midfield – and cried into a U.S. flag.
Yes, greatness has been found. And payback has been achieved. The Americans are again on top of the women’s soccer world.
They won their third straight Olympic gold medal Thursday, beating Japan 2-1 in a rematch of last year’s World Cup final and avenging the most painful loss in their history.
Carli Lloyd scored early in both halves, Hope Solo leaped and dived to make saves, and the entire roster found the redemption it had been seeking since that penalty kick shootout loss in Germany last summer.
Before 80,203 fans at Wembley Stadium, a record for a women’s soccer game at the Olympics, the teams put on a back-and-forth, don’t-turn-your-head soccer showcase.
At the final whistle, Solo found herself enveloped in a group-hug celebration that unleashed a year of bottled-up frustration. Many of the players paraded with the flag and put on the celebratory T-shirts.
Lloyd’s goals came in 8th and 54th minutes, making it four goals in the tournament for the midfielder who lost her long-held starting job weeks before the Olympics. She got back on the field when Shannon Boxx injured her hamstring in the opening game and started every game since.
Yuki Ogimi answered in the 63rd minute, and Mana Iwabuchi nearly had the equalizer in the 83rd – stripping the ball from captain Christie Rampone and swooping in on Solo – only to be thwarted when the goalie flung her entire body to the left to push the shot away.
Throughout the game, Japan perhaps played just as beautifully as the Americans, using speed and discipline to dominate possession and scoring chances for long stretches. The Japanese were unfortunate not to have a penalty kick awarded in the first half for a clear hand ball by U.S. midfielder Tobin Heath, who stuck out her left arm to stop a free kick inside the area.
Japan also had two shots hit the crossbar, one off the left hand of a leaping Solo, who was kept constantly busy for the first time this tournament. The closest the U.S. came to doubling the lead in the first 45 minutes came when Azusa Iwashimizu attempted to clear a routine ball played in front of the net – and headed it off the post.
Wambach, the outspoken co-captain who missed the Beijing Games with a broken leg, was always the player most impassioned about the mission to get the Americans back atop the podium. She spoke of “nightmares” from the Japan defeat, and now they’ve been replaced by tears of happiness.
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