U.S. women win Olympic soccer opener
GLASGOW -- The U.S. women sent a couple of messages to the rest of the 12-team field as they began their quest Wednesday to win their third consecutive Olympic soccer gold medal.
One, the Americans' defense might be shaky against quality teams. Two, their potent attack might be unstoppable.
Despite falling two goals behind in the opening 14 minutes, the U.S. scored four unanswered goals en route to a 4-2 Group G victory over highly regarded France in its tournament opener at Hampden Park.
"It was incredible," goalkeeper Hope Solo said. "We were ice. We were ice cold. We weren't even fazed going down two goals. That came from our confidence and preparation. We knew France was good, but we were better."
Alex Morgan led the comeback with two goals, veteran striker Abby Wambach tallied her 139th international goal and Megan Rapinoe set up two scores, but the decisive strike came from a longtime starter who had been relegated to the bench. Carli Lloyd, who scored the game-winner in the 2008 gold-medal win, broke a 2-2 tie with a 22-yard goal in the 56th minute.
"We're the best team in the world," Lloyd said. "If anyone can come back from a two-goal deficit it's us."
Had they lost, the Americans would have been on track to finish second in the group and to play defending Women's World Cup champion Japan, expected to win Group F, in the quarterfinals. The Americans figured they would meet their rivals -- they lost to the Japanese in the WWC final via penalty kicks last year -- in the gold-medal match.
The opening 14 minutes were a nightmare for the U.S. Gaetane Thiney had given France the lead with a crisp 20-yard strike in the 12th minute. Two minutes later, the Americans' inability to clear a corner kick out of the penalty area -- they had three kicks at it -- led to Marie-Laure Delie's 12-yard goal.
"When we were down 2-0 me and Abby looked at each other and said, 'All right, a goal each,' " Morgan said.
They did just that. First, Wambach headed home a Rapinoe corner kick to the far right post in the 19th minute before Morgan used her blazing speed to equalize off a long punt by Solo in the 32nd minute. (Morgan added a tap-in goal in the 66th minute.)
Then came Lloyd. Midfielder Sonia Bompastor slipped on the right flank while vying for the ball, giving Rapinoe room to cross it to Lloyd.
"I knew that everyone was crashing in towards the goal," Lloyd said. "No one was marking me. Took a touch, set myself up and couldn't hit it more perfectly than I did."
"The last three games prior to this I got a little bit used to it, but I never stopped working," she said. "I dug deep and I remained confident. I knew that's what I could bring to the team. There is not too many people who can. I was confident in what I could do, winning head balls, tackling, playing that holding role, playing that attacking role. I just remained confident . . . mentally prepared as if I was going to come in the game. That's what made the difference."