It wasn’t decided until the final buzzer rang, but it was the United States who defeated Japan 2-1 to capture the gold medal in women’s soccer at Wembley Stadium.
The U.S. played with the lead for almost the entire match after Carli Lloyd knocked home a header in the eighth minute. The goal was beautifully set up on a cross by Alex Morgan that you’ll see on highlight videos for years.
The U.S. has scored first in all five of their Olympic finals, and their only loss was to Norway in 2000.
The second goal was once again by Lloyd, this time in the 54th minute on a spectacular one-on-one move with an incredibly accurate shot in the bottom corner of the net.
Facing a 2-0 deficit, the Japanese turned up their aggressiveness, and it led to a Yuki Ogimi goal in the 63rd minute thanks to some poor defense by the Americans.
From there the stars and stripes held on for dear life, and keeper Hope Solo was outstanding in rejecting numerous shots in the final minutes.
It was a complete team effort as the Americans successfully exacted revenge on the Japanese just over a year after they lost to them on penalty kicks in the World Cup final.
Order has been restored for the No. 1-ranked team in the world.
Carli Lloyd: A+
An easy one here.
She set the tone early on with her magnificent header and her second goal proved to be the game-winner.
Lloyd ended up with five shots, three of them on goal, as she took full advantage of the opportunities presented to her.
She was the MVP of the match.
Hope Solo: A
Her incredibly save in 17th minute set the tone for a ton of outstanding saves that she wasn’t making earlier in the Olympics. Solo’s diving save in the 82nd minute off a bad turnover was mind-blowing, and it was just one of many that saved her team.
For all of the controversy and chatter surrounding Solo in these Olympics, she shut everyone up on the biggest stage.
Alex Morgan: C
You love her aggressiveness, and she did set up the first goal spectacularly, but Morgan was a real ball-hog at times in this match.
She took on the Japanese one-on-three at times to make herself look more like Kobe Bryant than a good teammate.
There is no question she is an incredible talent who is the future of American women’s soccer, but Morgan was a liability at times in this match.
Abby Wambach: B
She was solid, but unspectacular.
Wambach wasn’t as aggressive as she was against Canada, but once again she made multiple heads-up plays that saved her team from some serious trouble.
It was another match where everyone knew who the leader of the team was.
Yuki Ogimi: A
She was by far the most aggressive player for the Japanese in this match.
She fired off four shots, three on goal, and registered the only score for her country. Ogimi was the main threat offensively for Japan and kept her team in it until the final whistle.
One of the cooler developments of this American run has been the volume of tweets about the team. The social media juggernaut is a great way to measure the interest in the festivities, and I think it’s safe to say that a large portion of the country was paying attention.
Look no further than Samuel L. Jackson. He was been sending out a ton of tweets during the Olympics, including one right after the first U.S. goal of the game:
AWESOME SCOOOOOOOOOORE by USA!!! 8 mins in!!! Go USA!!!— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) August 9, 2012
All eyes were on this match, and it made ESPN’s John Hollinger feel bad for another match which featured a U.S. team looking for gold:
Feel bad for US women's water polo team today ... gold medal game overshadowned by concurrent soccer match.— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) August 9, 2012
Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla does an outstanding job of summing up Lloyd’s first goal early on:
So you ready for this? US up 1-nil on beautiful flick cross from Alex Morgan to onrushing train that is Carli Lloyd for header. Beautiful.— Mark Kiszla (@markkiszla) August 9, 2012
Kiszla, who was in attendance, also does a terrific job of summing up what team the crowd was rooting for during the match:
We've got 80k at this match. And the crowd is very evenly divided, meaning there's an ooh for every ah.— Mark Kiszla (@markkiszla) August 9, 2012
Solo was deflecting shots left and right on Thursday, and Dan Patrick Show’s Paulie Pabst captures a sweet image of one of her first half saves:
Solo hasn’t played exceptionally well in these Olympics, but she saved her best for last in the finals. ESPN’s Arash Markazi made a bold statement regarding her performance:
Japan keeps knocking on the door but Hope Solo is playing the game of her life.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) August 9, 2012
New York Daily News reporter Frank Isola reminds us of where Lloyd is from when explaining her second goal of the match:
Jersey Score, Part II. Carli Lloyd with an absolute blast from 23 yards out. The Garden State 2, Japan 0. Yet, no response from the Gov?— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) August 9, 2012
The gold-medal podium.
The United States has captured the gold medal and will proudly stand as a team while the U.S. national anthem blares from the speakers.
Japan will be given a well-deserved silver and the Canadians earned bronze after defeating France 1-0 earlier in the day.
The U.S. has gotten redemption from last year’s stunning World Cup upset and can now call themselves champions for the fourth time in the last five Olympics.