Three hundred eighty-nine days ago the U.S. women’s soccer team experienced ultimate heartbreak, losing to Japan in the Women’s World Cup final.
Thursday night, they got their redemption against the same team.
Carli Lloyd scored two goals, and the defense and goalkeeper Hope Solo held off a furious rally attempt by the Japanese leading to a 2-1 victory in the gold medal game at the 2012 London Olympics. The victory was the United States’ fourth in five Olympic Games (1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012).
The level of respect between the USA and Japan has been at an all-time high, even with Japan’s victory in the 2011 World Cup on penalty kicks. Through the past 389 days since that World Cup final, the U.S. has wanted a chance to reclaim their status as a top team, and despite beating Japan 4-1 in an exhibition, it was not the same scenario, as it did not have as much at stake.
In front of the largest crowd to witness a soccer match for women, 80,903 at Wembley Stadium, the U.S. attacked quickly and often. And with Lloyd’s first goal off a nice pass from Alex Morgan originally intended for Abby Wambach, Lloyd rushed in and put the ball in with a header to put the Americans up 1-0. After that, Japan, usually known for being conservative and slowing the game down began to attack, but the defense and goalkeeper Hope Solo held strong, and the United States was able to maintain their lead going into halftime.
In the second half, the U.S. went on the attack, and in the 54th minute, Lloyd struck again, hitting a goal in transition that put the USA up 2-0. A furious rally by Japan resulted in a goal in the 63rd minute by Yuki Ogimi cut the deficit to 2-1. However, Hope Solo made some strong saves, and the US addressed their biggest concern from head coach Pia Sundhage, which was closing out games. The ladies hung on to win the game, the Olympic gold and it would be the crowning achievement in their redemption, preventing Japan from becoming the first nation to win the World Cup and the Olympics in two consecutive years.
With all the sacrifices and emotion, Team USA dug in and found what it took to win gold, and achieved greatness, which was fitting, because the team wore these shirts after their win: “Greatness Has Been Found.”
Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports
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