Wed, Jul 25th 2012, 22:18
The U.S. Women’s National Team earned a huge three points with a 4-2 victory against France in the first Group G match for both countries at the 2012 Olympics.
After falling behind 2-0 after just 13 minutes when France struck for two goals in a three-minute span, Abby Wambach started the USA’s historic comeback with a header off a corner kick in the 18th minute. Alex Morgan pulled the teams equal in the 31st minute and the wild first match of the Olympic tournament went into halftime tied at 2-2.
Carli Lloyd, who had replaced the injured Shannon Boxx just 17 minutes into the game, tallied the winning goal on a brilliant strike from distance in the 55th minute and Morgan finished off the match with her second goal in the 66th.
Lloyd’s goal was her second straight Olympic game-winner as she had the lone score in the 2008 Olympic gold medal game as the USA defeated Brazil 1-0 in overtime.
The USA will continue group play against Colombia at Hampden Park on July 28 (5 p.m. local / 12 p.m. ET) and finish the first round against Korea DPR on July 31 (5:15 p.m. local / 12:15 p.m. ET) at the legendary Old Trafford in Manchester, home to Manchester United. Both games are televised live on the NBC Sports Network.
“You can’t look at only the first minutes or the last minutes, it’s the whole game,” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. “If you look at the whole game, I’m really proud of the team. Scoring four goals, and goals that were fantastic, that’s one way to prove that you are ready (for the Olympics). It was a little shaky beginning, but I think it was amazing the way we came back and responded to those two goals.”
France put together what seemed like a dream start with Gaëtane Thiney giving her country the lead in the 12th minute after collecting a headed clearance and dribbling up the middle at the U.S. net before unleashing a vicious drive from 25 yards that sailed into the upper right corner. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo got a slight glove on the powerful shot, but couldn’t turn it away.
Just two minutes later, France took a corner kick from the left side and the Americans could not clear. The ball bounced around the box as the players from both teams scrambled for control. The maelstrom ended poorly for the U.S. as the ball rolled perfectly back to Marie-Laure Delie who smashed her shot into the right side of the net for a 2-0 lead.
The USA had started the game off well, but after allowing the two goals, it seemed things were going from bad to worse for the Americans who were forced to make an early substitution after midfielder Shannon Boxx suffered a hamstring injury in the 17th minute and was replaced by Lloyd. It actually turned out to be a turning point in the match.
Shortly after the change, the USA got one foot back into the match as Wambach, who missed the 2008 Olympics with a broken leg, tallied her first Olympic goal since the 2004 Athens gold medal game, heading home a Megan Rapinoe corner kick in the 19th minute. Lanky France center-back Wendie Renard, who stands 6-foot-1, had the assignment of marking the USA’s 5-11 striker, but Wambach got the better of the match-up on this service, losing her mark before rising above two French defenders to athletically loop a header from the right side into the far left corner.
The Americans now had the momentum and the prodigious right leg of Solo set up the equalizer in the 32ndminute. Solo sent a kick deep into the French defensive third where it flew over the leaping Wambach and her mark, and skipped through to the streaking Morgan. Morgan then held off defender Ophelie Meilleroux and lifted her left-footed shot over onrushing France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi and into the net. The strike was Morgan’s first Olympic goal after scoring twice in the Women’s World Cup last summer.
The USA might have gone into halftime a goal up after Meilleroux, the French captain, cut Morgan down from behind in the penalty box with one minute left to play before the break. Despite the pro-U.S. crowd and the U.S. players calling for a penalty, Japanese referee Sachiko Yamagishi let play go on. Still, the Americans now had the momentum.
France tried to stem that momentum with two subs at halftime, replacing Meilleroux with Laura Georges and taking off star midfielder Louisa Necib for Eugénie Le Sommer, but it was the Americans who would have the majority of the good chances in the final 45 minutes.
The U.S. started the second half with a couple of promising scoring opportunities, including Wambach’s 50th-minute shot attempt off a Rapinoe’s corner kick that was cleared off the goal line by France’s Elise Bussaglia.
Lloyd gave the USA the lead in the 56th minute with a rocket shot from 25 yards out that screamed into the left side of the net almost before Bouhaddi could make a move toward it. Lloyd had received a ball in midfield and took a few dribbles to free herself for the winning shot, which she then celebrated by running to the U.S. bench and executing a perfect knee slide into a gaggle of teammates.
In the 60th minute, Morgan was again denied a penalty after she was bodied to the ground inside the penalty area after getting a step on Sonia Bompastor in the right side of the penalty area, but she would seal the game anyway in the 66th minute.
The goal sequence started when Rapinoe sent a ball from the center of the field to the left side, and when a French defender slipped, allowing the ball to skip through to the sprinting Tobin Heath.
Heath found herself with quite a bit of room behind the France defense and took a perfect angle to the goal. She had the time and space to dribble all the way to the end line, where she fell victim to a crunching challenge, but not before she slipped a pass across the face of the goal. Wambach was crashing, and although she didn’t get a piece of the ball, occupied a defender and the goalkeeper, allowing the ball to roll to the far post where Morgan simply tapped it in from a yard out. It was Morgan’s team-leading 19th goal of the year.
The two second half goals took the fight out of France, and although the talented French tried to pull a goal back, the U.S. defense led by Christie Rampone and Rachel Buehler, closed off the back and shut down almost every French attack in the final 45 minutes. Solo ruled her penalty area after the two early goals, making several brave catches in traffic and controlling the tempo of the match with her distribution and kicking game. She also made a nice grab off a header from Élodie Thomis in the first half.