Team USA got redemption one year later after being defeated by Japan in the Women’s World Cup finals. USA walks away from the 2012 Olympics with their heads held high after beating Japan and taking home gold.
Both teams fought hard right up until the final whistle as the match was filled with excitement and non-stop action. Many wondered if USA would be able to physically keep up with Japan after playing 123 minutes in their semi-final victory over Canada, but they showed that determination and will power can overcome any exhaustion they may have had.
Every member of the United States Women’s National Team deserves the victory as each player contributed in some way, whether it was scoring goals, blocking shots, recording assists, or pushing each other to the limit in practice. However, like every game the victory can be boiled down to a few factors that gave the winning team the necessary edge to come out on top.
The following are five reasons why USA defeated Japan in the women’s soccer final:
Hope Solo was hardly tested throughout the Olympics holding teams scoreless up until the semi-final match. However, when it mattered most she brought her ‘A’ game and held Japan to only one goal after they had four realistic opportunities to score more. In my opinion, she could very well be the MVP of the game after two unbelievable saves that prevented Japan from taking the lead.
The first save was a finger-tip stop in which Solo hit the ball upwards, which caused it to deflect off the crossbar. No question her best save of the tournament. The second save may not have been as dramatic but still came at a critical time. In the 82nd minute, Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi had a break away along the left said but Solo guarded near post and baited the Japanese forward to shoot far post. Solo extended her body and made an outstanding play getting her outstretched arms on the ball.
Carli Lloyd is the hero of the match as she scored both goals for USA. Her first goal came in the 8th minute after an unbelievable assist by Alex Morgan, who crossed the ball brilliantly in front of the goal to a waiting Abby Wambach. However, Lloyd never stopped her run and flew into the box surprising everyone watching, including the Japanese goalie. She lowered her head and used it to knock the ball into the back of the net. Her second goal was even more impressive as she carried the ball from midfield and took a shot at the top of the box striking the ball with authority into the left side of the goal.
USA had 17 shots, six of them on goal, and continuously put pressure on Japan’s defense from the very start of the match. There is no question it gave them the confidence they needed early on to overcome any tiredness they may have had. Morgan especially looked fearless and her play clearly rattled the nerves of Japan’s defenders as she constantly got behind the line of defense. A few of her shots were off target sailing over the goal but nonetheless, it certainly had an impact on what USA was able to do offensively.
Much will be said about the offense when looking back at the Olympic finals but the defense certainly held their own and limited Japan to 13 shots, five on goal. There were several times it looked as if Japan was going to score, but USA’s defense was able to get a body on the ball and clear it just in time. USA did have a couple weak moments in which they were not able to get the ball out of the box, which cost them a goal in the 63rd minute, but overall they were able to overcome their mistakes.
Obviously, the fans did not have any direct effect on the match but one has to wonder if the constant chants of “USA… USA…” helped the team press forward. There is no question the noise drained out any chants the Japanese fans were yelling, and considering the shouts in support of team USA never stopped, I am going to credit the fans with part of the victory. Ask any athlete in the world and they will say when a stadium of fans are behind them screaming their name, that is all the motivation needed to play at the highest level possible.