• Monday Dec 22, 2008

    Year in Review: USA, goalkeeper Solo avenge Women's World Cup loss to Brazil with Olympic title

    Goalkeeper Hope Solo left the 2007 Women's World Cup in disgrace, ostracized by her USA teammates for publicly criticizing her coach and a teammate after being benched in semifinals.

    Eleven months later, Solo was resurrected, playing a vital role for the Americans as they captured their third Olympic gold medal. Solo was essential, helping to hold off a relentless Brazilian attack after Carli Lloyd connected from 19 yards six minutes into extra time en route to a 1-0 victory on 21 August.

    After Solo was replaced by veteran Briana Scurry and the USA subsequently lost 4:0 to Brazil in 2007, she lashed out at coach Greg Ryan: "There is no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves." A year later, she made the saves, though vindication was not her first thought.

    "I don't even think about that, whatever I said last year," she said. "I am just enjoying this moment right now. I feel great. I just won a damn gold medal."

    Solo admitted that she was waiting to play Brazil when it really counted. The Americans defeated the Brazilians in three friendlies this past summer, all by 1:0 scores.

    "We thought about that game all the time," she said. We've seen Brazil three times since that last match, but it wasn't the same. On the world stage is when teams really come to play so it sat with us a little bit."

    The Americans have won three of the four women's soccer gold medals, including 1996 and 2004 while taking the silver in 2000.

    With former Swedish international Pia Sundhage as coach, the United States started the Olympics on the wrong foot, surrendering two goals in the opening four minutes and losing 2-0 to Norway. But it recovered with a 1-0 win over Japan and a 4-0 triumph over New Zealand in the first round. It overcame a difficult Canada side 2:1 in extra time on Natasha Kai's 101st-minute goal before vanquishing the Japanese in the semifinals, 4-2.

    "I would say the turning point was Norway," Sundhage said. "I don't know how many teams would come out of that game, 2-0, after four minutes. But we are not looking at the result, we're looking at how we played. That is why we are standing here with the gold medal."

    The Canadians qualified for the Olympic knockout round as a wildcard side, finishing third in Group A. They defeated Argentina, 2:1, tied host China, 1:1, and lost to Sweden, 2:1.

    That the U.S. and Canada battled into extra time should not be surprising because they are that close. At the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying championship game in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in April, the Americans outlasted their northern neighbors, 6-5 on penalty kicks after a 1:1 draw. Both teams qualified by winning their respective semifinal matches. The U.S. blanked Costa Rica, 3:0, while the Canadians edged Mexico, 1:0.

    The Mexicans defeated the Costa Ricans, 1-0, in the third-place match as halftime substitute Maria Lourdes Godrillo scored in the 69th minute.

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