Carli Lloyd proved Pia Sundhage and any doubters wrong.
Sundhage said so herself.
After being benched earlier in the Olympic tournament, Lloyd proved her worth, scoring two stellar goals as the U.S. women’s national team withstood some dramatic moments to hold off defending Women’s World Cup champions Japan and take the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics with a 2-1 victory in front of 80,203 at the famed Wembley Stadium.
“Japan played very well, but give credit to our defending, our counterattack and Carli Lloyd,” Sundhage said in a postgame interview on NBC Sports Network.
Lloyd, the gold medal star of the 2008 Olympics, opened the scoring in the eighth minute, going low to head in an Alex Morgan cross. Tobin Heath played the ball into Morgan on the left side of the box. After a touch away from goal, Morgan crossed the ball across the top of the six-yard box, seemingly toward an open Abby Wambach, but Lloyd, running into the box, went low in front of Wambach to head the ball in past Japan goalkeeper Miho Fukimoto.
Her second goal in the 54th minute was an expert dribble and long-range strike, as Lloyd weaved through several defenders and then ripped a 22-yard shot to the left corner past Fukimoto. She fought harder and dug deeper, she said, and she said she wanted to prove all her doubters wrong, including Sundhage.
“Coming in, I was coming off the bench. I didn’t know what to expect but I prepared harder than anyone… I was ready for the moment,” Lloyd said in a postgame interview on NBC Sports Network.
Japan, who hit the crossbar twice and was denied several times by expert Hope Solo saves and on-the-line defending–and was denied a penalty on a Rachel Buehler handball missed by referee Bibiana Steinhaus, finally broke through in the 63rd minute. Homare Sawa broke free in the box and had her shot defended in front of goal. Yuki Ogimi poked in the rebound and put Japan back in the match.
However, Japan was not able to get the equalizer, and the U.S. women held on with a gritty performance to close out the match.
The USA won its fourth gold medal in the five Olympic competitions featuring women’s soccer. The U.S. has also taken the overall soccer gold medal lead for combined women’s and men’s Olympic Games. Great Britain’s and Hungary’s men’s soccer teams have both earned three gold medals.
The attendance at Wembley was an Olympic record crowd for women’s soccer and the largest crowd the U.S. WNT has played in front of outside of the USA.
Wambach said on NBC Sports Network she wouldn’t have anymore nightmares about 2011′s World Cup loss. She said “it’s a year’s worth of work and sacrifices all of us had to make,” including those who didn’t make the team as well as the team’s fans.
“We feel like this year has been trials and tribulations … and this win feels like everything has come full circle,” Wambach said.
The U.S. WNT will savor the moment of Olympic gold and then return to the home front starting in September. The team kicks off their victory tour when they host Costa Rica on Sept. 1 in Abby Wambach’s hometown of Rochester, N.Y., at Sahlen’s Stadium (2:30 p.m. ET). The U.S. will then face Australia on Sept. 16 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. (12:30 p.m. ET). Both matches will be broadcast live on NBC.
“We made it way too exciting, but that’s good for the crowd, I guess,” Sundhage said.
- U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Japan
Date: Aug. 9, 2012
Competition: 2012 Olympic Games; Championship
Venue: Wembley Stadium; London, England
Kickoff: 7:45 p.m. local (2:45 p.m. ET)
Weather: 75 degrees, warm
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
JPN 0 1 1
USA – Carli Lloyd (Alex Morgan) 8th minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (Megan Rapinoe) 54
JPN – Yuki Ogimi (Homare Sawa) 63
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 6-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 16-Rachel Buehler (4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 80), 5-Kelley O’Hara; 15-Megan Rapinoe (12-Lauren Cheney, 57), 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd, 17-Tobin Heath; 13-Alex Morgan, 14-Abby Wambach
Subs not used: 2-Heather Mitts, 8-Amy Rodriguez, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 11-Sydney Leroux, 18-Nicole Barnhart
Head coach: Pia Sundhage
JPN: 1-Miho Fukimoto; 2-Yukari Kinga, 3-Azusa Iwashimizu, 4-Saki Kumagai, 5-Aya Sameshima (16-Mana Iwabuchi, 77); 6-Mizuho Sakaguchi (14-Asuna Tanaka, 59), Aya Miyama (capt.), 9-Nahomi Kawasumi, 10-Homare Sawa; 11-Shinobu Ohno (13-Karina Maruyama, 86), 17-Yuki Ogimi
Subs not used: 18-Ayumi Kaihori, 12-Kyoko Yano, 7-Kozue Ando, 15-Megumi Takase
Head coach: Norio Sasaki
USA – Abby Wambach (caution) 90th minute
Referee: Bibiana Steinhaus (GER)
Assistant Referee 1: Marina Wozniak (GER)
Assistant Referee 2: Katrin Rafalski (GER)
Fourth Official: Jesica Di Iorio (ARG)