U.S. Women Win Gold in Front of Record Crowd


It was the rematch that a lot had expected.  Japan had a chance to be the first team to win gold after a World Cup.  The U.S. was seeking its third straight gold in the Olympic Games.  There has been talk of revenge after Japan beat the U.S. in penalty kicks last year, but it is hard to call it an upset in hindsight.  The Japan team bounded over a national tragedy in the tsunami but have shown tactical prowess leading to the final game.  It was sure to be a dazzling match in front of the largest crowd ever for women’s soccer a Wembley Stadium.

Shannon Boxx was back from her hamstring injury that was suffered in the opening match.  Lauren Cheney would start as a substitute for coach Pia Sundhage, the first female to score at Wembley back in 1989.  The Japanese team was full of smils as the match began and their first Olympic final was soon underway.

Megan Rapinoe would start on the right with Boxx in the middle and Tobin Heath on the left.  The U.S. would charge down the right for most of he early attacks.  They had possession early with the defenders not seeing much action.  Alex Morgan took a flick on from Abby Wambach to get the first shot of the game in the third minute.

The build up would pay off for Carli Lloyd before the match was ten minutes old. Heath would get the ball down the left and pick off Morgan.  She dragged two defenders toward the baseline and curled a ball back across the box.  It looked destined for the swinging leg of Wambach, but Lloyd came crashing in to cut the ball off with her head.  Boxx started the play off a throw by quickly switching the ball to Kelly O’Hara.  Lloyd scored the game winner in the last gold medal match for the U.S.  Heath’s pass seemed to catch the defender off guard, but the scoring was open.

The match would settle in following the goal. Japan would get their first opening in the 17th minute as Nahomi Kawasumi would get one past Hope Solo, but Christie Rampone would cover for her keeper. Solo would have to make the follow up save. She would follow that up with a marvelous diving, stretching save off a header from Yuki Ogimi.

Despite the lead, the U.S. would be outplayed for the remainder of the half. O’Hara would lose a ball on a heavy touch, many ball were sent through hoping to beat two defenders, and the back line was not always in sync. Japan would show their technical game with crisp passing and wonderful build ups. The U.S. relied on their athleticism to get the the half with the advantage once Japan found success keeping the ball wide.

They also relied on luck as Heath got away with a handball that referee Bibiana Steinhaus did not call. This is the same referee that watched over the World Cup final last year. Of course given the drama over the handball call in the semifinal, luck was definitely wearing blue in this instance. (Japan hit the crossbar clean one time too.)

Japan started the second half by earning a threatening free kick in the 47th minute. Solo had to punch it out with a player diving for the header while being he’ll by Rachel Buehler. Buehler may have taken the worst of it meeting Solo’s hip bone firmly. She would later be subbed for by Becky Sauerbrunn as it looks like the collision caused some pain.

Lloyd would then score one of the beter goals of the Olympics. Her second goal was a scorcher across goal from about 20 yards out. She took a small chip pass about 45 yards out and dribbled with confidence. She made one last move to use the defender as a bit of a screen before unleashing the accurate shot.

Sundhage would turn her attention to defense by subbing Lauren Cheney in for Megan Rapinoe. However, the pressing from Japan stepped up. Ohno run in the 64th minute would lead to a great shot that was once again cleared by Rampone. However, the ball bounced around in the box with Homare Sawa beating O’Hara to the ball. Ogimi was in the right place to chip it in. With over twenty minutes to go it was 2-1.

There would be other chances. Buehler would get a siding chance off a free kick before being taken out of the match. Morgan would take it on her own a couple times only to send the ball over the crossbar. Japan would win more free kicks looking for a surgical finish. Amy LePeilbet got in front of a shot that had a chance of beating Solo in the 74th minute.

The best chance to equalize came in the 83rd minute as a pass from Sauerbrunn to Rampone skid away from the captain. It did not look like Rampone knew Iwabuchi was there. The turnover led to a one on one as Sauerbrunn tried to recover. Solo laid out to her left to make a sprawling fingertip save. She would follow that up with another save, despite a bobble, on the ensuing melee.

Wambach would get a card in the final minute of regulation time but that would not deter the celebration. After two minutes of stoppage time the United States would be gold medal champions. Lloyd would have the game winner for the second Olympic games in a row. Wambach would show her leadership. In the final game, Solo was superb. A jubilant Sundhage would win her second as coach. The goal was reached.  Wambach would sum up the victory.

"It makes everything sweeter. I can rest assured that the rest of my life won’t be spent in nightmare status. I’m not going to be upset for the rest of my life. We put so much of ourselves in this. We sacrificed our families and friends. This means everything to us. It seems surreal in the moment. We really want to say thank you to all of our fans for cheering us on and being a part of this."

It was not revenge, although it may have been a motivating factor. It was two great teams with differing styles. It is a game with so much meaning for both sides and the emotion was evident. The Japanese coach Norio Sasaki kept his cool to help his team. As the U.S. t-shirt read, greatness has been found. It was in more ways than one and it is women’s football in general. This Olympic Games exemplified why they call it “The Beautiful Game.”