Carli Lloyd scored in the sixth minute of extra time as the United States won their second straight Olympic women’s soccer gold medal with a 1-0 victory over Brazil on Thursday.
Since women’s soccer first featured at the Olympics in 1996, the USA have now claimed three gold and one silver medal, while Brazil won their second silver.
But while Lloyd scored the winning goal on Thursday, the hero for the Americans was goalkeeper Hope Solo, an ironic twist after last year’s controversy at the World Cup.
After losing to the US in the gold-medal match in the Athens Olympics, Brazil exacted revenge on Team USA at the 2007 World Cup, snapping their 51-match winning streak with a humiliating 4-0 triumph in the semi-finals.
The loss was highly controversial for the US as Solo was benched in favour of veteran Briana Scurry by then-coach Greg Ryan, who was promptly fired following the Americans’ third-place finish.
Solo, who made a number of comments suggesting that she should have started in net and would have made the saves, came up big for the Americans against the favoured Brazilians on Thursday.
Brazil controlled most of the possession but were unable to generate too many chances as the United States focused on keeping things tight early on.
Leading scorers Cristiane and Marta dazzled with the ball down the sidelines but could not get anything going down the middle of the field as the US forced long-distance shots or ambitious crosses from the wings which Solo was able to deal with.
Solo made the best save of the match in the 72nd minute when Marta worked herself free on the left side of the penalty area and fired a hard left-footed shot from close range that the US goalkeeper just got a right hand on before the ball was cleared away.
Angela Hucles had the Americans’ best chance in normal time, blasting a shot from 20 yards away that was stopped by Brazil’s sprawling goalkeeper Barbara in the 86th minute.
After the match went to extra time, Lloyd put the US on top as she received a pass on the left side of the 18-yard box and her left-footed shot beat Barbara and found the back of the net just inside the right post.
Brazil, who had 13 corner kicks in the game, supplied heavy pressure over most of the game’s final 24 minutes but attempted too many individual moves against multiple defenders to generate a clear opportunity.
With time winding down, Marta made a run down the right wing and delivered a dangerous cross into the box, but Solo was there to deflect the ball away from danger with oncoming Brazilian forwards in the area.
In the bronze-medal match, Fatmire Bajramaj scored a pair of goals as two-time defending World Cup champions Germany beat Japan, 2-0.
Bajramaj put Germany on top in the 69th minute, knocking home a rebound from a tough angle on the left side of the six-yard box. She scored again in the 87th minute to give the Germans some insurance.
Japan were denied their first-ever medal in the event, while Germany have now earned the bronze in three consecutive Olympics.