Olympic champions, once again.
Carli Lloyd scored in the sixth minute of overtime Thursday night, Hope Solo bailed out her teammates time and again, and the United States beat Brazil 1-0 to win the gold medal in women’s soccer for a third time in four Olympics. As the final whistle sounded, the Americans charged across the field, hugging anyone in sight. Someone handed out flags, and several players took off, running.
The Brazilians, meanwhile, were disconsolate. Goalkeeper Barbara lay on her back, sobbing, while Cristiane sat on the ground crying. Marta, who had been so brilliant all night only to see her team come up short yet again in a major tournament, put her hand to her head.
The victory was a bit of redemption for the Americans, who went to the World Cup as favorites last fall only to be humbled 4-0 in the semifinals by Brazil. And for no one was it sweeter than Solo, who was banished from the bronze medal game at the World Cup after criticizing then-coach Greg Ryan for not playing her against Brazil even though she’d allowed only two goals in four World Cup starts, and had a shutout streak of nearly 300 minutes going.
Several minutes after the game ended, Solo sprinted back out onto the field, a gaudy imitation gold medal around her neck, a phone to her ear and a bright smile on her face.
The United States has won the Olympic gold medal three of the four times since women’s soccer was added in 1996, its only loss coming to Norway in the 2000 final.
The Americans looked sluggish and outclassed against the Brazilians for much of the game. But just as they have all Olympics, they came through when it counted.
Amy Rodriguez held off two Brazilians and put the ball up for Lloyd who gave it a light touch with her right foot and then left-footed it from a yard outside the area. Barbara dived, but the ball scooted past her and settled in the far bottom corner of the net.
Marta did everything she could to draw the Brazilians even. In the 102nd minute, but she was tackled by Heather Mitts and then, after getting the ball back, was blocked first by Kate Markgraf and then by Christie Rampone.
In the final minutes of the second overtime, the two-time FIFA Player of the Year tried to bend in a corner a few minutes later, but Solo punched it free. Renata Costa collected the rebound, but her shot banged into the side of the net, drawing groans from the crowd of 51,612 that clearly favored Brazil.
Shortly after, Marta looped in a free kick, but none of her teammates went for it and the ball bounced over the scrum and wide of the far post. And with seconds left, Cristiane’s header went just wide.
Earlier, world champion Germany defeated Japan 2-0 in the bronze medal game.