It was a tournament that seemingly had everything: excitement, drama, historic venues, broken records, controversy and redemption. And of course in the end it featured the triumph of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team.
With a 2-1 victory against Japan in the championship game, the Americans claimed their fourth Olympic gold medal out of five Summer Games in which women’s soccer has been contested. The win in front of a record crowd for an Olympic women’s soccer match of 80,203 at the historic Wembley Stadium also gave the USA three consecutive gold medals.
While the tournament ended in grand fashion for the USA, it certainly didn’t start that way. In the first of two group games played at famed Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, the Americans gave up two goals in the first 15 minutes against France and found themselves in a 2-0 hole, only to battle back to tie the game by halftime on goals from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, and then scored twice in the second half through Carli Lloyd, and Morgan again, to take a huge 4-2 comeback win, three points and control of Group G.
The USA went into its second group match against Colombia knowing a win would almost guarantee a berth to the quarterfinals, and in a choppy and physical match, triumphed 3-0 on a first half goal from Megan Rapinoe – her first Olympic score – and second half tallies from Wambach and Lloyd.
The USA changed venues for its third first round match, moving to Manchester and one of the world’s most famous stadiums – Old Trafford -- for its group finale against Korea DPR. The USA needed a win or a tie to win the group and came out with a highly professional 1-0 win as Wambach scored her third goal in as many games. The victory gave the USA the Group G title and a match against the third place finisher in Group E, New Zealand.
Against a scrappy and motivated Kiwi side, the USA emerged 2-0 victors as Wambach scored in the first half off an assist from Morgan and late game substitute Sydney Leroux clinched the match with her first Olympic goal, capping it off with a celebration of pure emotion.
The game moved into overtime and it seemed destined for penalty kicks before Morgan’s header in the 123rdminute – the latest goal in the history of any FIFA competition – gave the USA wild 4-3 victory.
The win at Old Trafford earned the USA a ticket to London where they would meet their nemesis Japan in a rematch of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final. This time the Americans would come out on top as Lloyd scored two spectacular goals, one off a header and another on a patented blast from outside, to earn the gold medal.
The tournament marked the first time the USA had won all six games in an Olympic competition and Wambach scored a goal in the first five games, also a record. Lloyd scored the winning goal in an Olympic gold medal match for the second Olympics in a row and became the third U.S. player to score twice in a world championship final, following Michelle Akers at the 1991 Women’s World Cup and Tiffeny Milbrett at the 2000 Olympics. Lloyd scored four goals in the competition followed by three for Morgan, three for Rapinoe and one for Leroux.
The USA will now embark on its post-Olympic victory tour with two games already set on Sept. 1 in Rochester, N.Y. against Costa Rica and Sept. 16 against Australia at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
More dates and cities will be announced in the near future. See you there...