Midfielder Carli Lloyd bagged a brace—a goal in each half—to lead the U.S. women's soccer team past Japan 2-1 Thursday in a nervy match at London's famed Wembley Stadium that yielded the gold medal for the Americans.
It was redemption for the 2011 defeat the U.S. team suffered at the hands of Japan in Portugal in the Women's World Cup. This time, the U.S. got out early with Lloyd's first goal, a header that came after Alex Morgan floated a cross into the penalty box for Abby Wambach. But Lloyd poked her head in front of Wambach to grab the goal.
Japan, which plays more of a possession game when compared to the fast-paced attacking style of the Americans, seemed stunned in the early goings, but eventually gained its footing and mounted a ferocious attack in the second half which ended with Yuki Ogimi's goal in the 63rd minute.
Indeed, the remaining half hour looked as if it would end with a replay of last year's World Cup final, when Japan won on penalties.
But it was not to be as U.S. coach Pia Sundhage drew upon her bench to bring fresh blood—and feet—onto the pitch.
While Japan showed its technical strength, it was the speed and size of the U.S. team that won the day. Wambach, for example, had a three-inch height advantage over the tallest Japanese player. That, and some spectacular saves from American goalie Hope Solo carried the day for the United States.
The medal cements the Americans as the undisputed best women's soccer team in the world, currently ranked No. 1 by FIFA, the governing body of soccer. They have had more success in international competitions than their male counterparts, winning the hearts and minds of fans back home over the years.