The women's soccer tournament is over at the 2012 London Olympics, and the United States is the champion. The Americans defeated Japan 2-1 Thursday in a very entertaining match. A brace from Carli Lloyd made the difference for the U.S., while Yuki Ogimi tried to bring Japan back in the game with a tap-in just after the hour mark. Still, the Americans were sharp enough to best the world champions, and they retain their Olympic title for the third straight Olympic games.
The match started out with a bang, as both teams were eager to move up and down the field with the ball. The Americans got the scoring started early, as a great build-up saw Alex Morgan receive the ball in the box, turn away from goal and inexplicably find a bit of space, and send a cross back towards the back post, where Abby Wambach was waiting. Instead, Lloyd was making a run into the box and made a diving header on Morgan's cross, perhaps poaching a goal from Wambach. In the gold medal match, I doubt Wambach minded.In the 57th minute, Lloyd followed up the first goal with her second, in which she made a run through the midfield with the ball before unleashing a perfectly placed rocket to the far post from the edge of Japan's box. It was a spectacular goal, and put an exclamation point on the night for the Americans.
But the game still had more than a half hour to go, and Japan sensed the Americans loosening up ever so slightly. Despite only scoring one goal on the night, Japan predictably put the American defense to the test and Hope Solo came up huge in goal for the U.S., as she made several key saves in both halves in order to keep the U.S. ahead. The most important save she had to make came in the 83rd minute, when Christie Rampone gave up the ball near the U.S. box, and Asuna Tanaka had a chance to even the score as she headed towards goal alone. Her close range shot was pushed aside by Solo, and it was the kind of save that allows Solo to claim the title of the world's best goalkeeper. Certainly, it was a team effort, and the Americans did what they needed to on the day to win gold.
The match was not entirely without controversy. Although the referee for this match seemed to have the game under control and by and large the teams did not play particularly physically, Japan had a legitimate shout for a penalty midway through the first half when Tobin Heath handled the ball while defending a free kick, but no call was given.
If both teams continue to maintain their outstanding form, there's no reason to believe why they can't meet in future tournament finals. These teams play exciting soccer, match each other well, and produce exciting results. Well done to the United States, but full credit to both sides.
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