Could women's football fans possibly hope for a better gold medal match-up than the US and Japan? Ever since last year's heartbreaking World Cup Championship against Japan, Team USA's been chomping at the bit for redemption at the London Olympics. During Monday's white-knuckle match against Canada, it started to look like gold was slipping from America's grip, and that much-desired redemption wouldn't come. But, of course, they made it to Wembley Stadium for today's gold medal game.
Team USA never gave up during that competition with Canada, and they obviously had no intention of backing down from Japan, either. What team would be more satisfying to beat than the one that took the 2011 World Cup?
Once the play began, the United States immediately made their intentions clear; Carli Lloyd slipped the ball past Japanese goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto in the first eight minutes of play. From there, both teams made additional goal attempts, utilizing confident ball possession and clear-headed composure to their advantages. Both Fukumoto and Solo made excellent saves, though, so the score remained 1-0 in America's favor by halftime.
Despite the rivalry between Japan and the US, the teams have tremendous respect for each other, so this clean game was mostly free of controversy. One moment evoked some wry comments from Japan's coach, Norio Sasaki, though; when Japan launched a free kick toward the US goal and the ball hit Tobin Heath's hand, Sasaki joked with the referee, saying, "Why wasn't that a handball?" Fair question. Referee Christiana Pedersen penalized Canada's Marie-Eve Nault in the semifinal in a similar scenario, and that handball led to a goal that tied the game and eventually ended with an American victory. It's true that the ref calls in this tournament have been controversially inconsistent.
That shouldn't overshadow the skills of the players, though. In the second half, Carli Lloyd scored yet another goal for the US, followed by Yuki Ogimi's goal for Japan. Solo and the US defense continued to block every attempt after Ogimi's score, preventing all subsequent attacks.
Even with their lead, the US continued to hustle their hearts out until the last ref whistle blew, and that's when the team finally gained their hard-won redemption. The honorable Japanese team took a humble bow after their loss. And Team USA proudly held up their flag and posed for photos, while Queen's power ballad "We Are the Champions" echoed throughout Wembley Stadium. Hugs were given and tears were shed. This is the third consecutive gold medal for the US women's team, and it was fought for with every bit of skill, strength and passion those players had.
Watching the Olympics on TV? Check out the BuddyTV Guide app's new "2012 Olympics" quicklist -- it puts all the Olympics TV coverage in the palm of your hand, organized by time and your personal cable/satellite setup.Sarah WatsonContributing Writer(Image courtesy of NBC)