Bang! Boom! Two quick shots, and the U.S. women’s soccer team had an early hole at the start of the quest for a third consecutive Olympic gold medal.
Fortunately for the Americans, they have firepower like no other squad in the world, enough to overcome such a deficit and take control, beating France 4-2 Wednesday as they opened their London Games far from London.
Weren’t aware that the Olympics were already under way? There’s nothing like a come-from-behind win to make people notice.
“There’s a lot of other sports going on,” deadpanned midfielder Megan Rapinoe. “So we have to catch the attention early.”
They did so not only by falling behind, but by finding four dynamic ways to score goals. Abby Wambach used her size and strength to head in a corner kick, speedy Alex Morgan raced ahead to chip one over the goalkeeper, Carli Lloyd nailed a 25-yard rocket, and Morgan cashed in with a simple tap-in after a nice run from Tobin Heath.
“I think there was a lot of nerves and stuff going on in those first minutes,” defender Rachel Buehler said. “And we got ‘em out. It probably went as bad as it could — and then we were able to turn it around.”
Soccer always starts early at the Olympics in order to have time to play a full tournament of games. In this case, the Americans were on the field two days before the opening ceremony and 400-plus miles from the British capital.
And they knew that an early stumble wouldn’t be the end of the world. The U.S. gave up two goals in the first four minutes to open the last Olympics in China, losing to 2-0 to Norway. The Americans rebounded to win their final five matches and take the gold.
“After 2-0, I thought about China,” coach Pia Sundhage said. “We’ve been there before and we came back. If you look at the whole tournament in China, we won the gold medal. Now this team is better than 2008. We came back in the game.”
While the Americans are favored to take the title again — and even though the U.S. is now 13-0-1 all-time against France — it was hardly a surprise to see the French make it a game. The teams were tied late in the second half in last year’s World Cup semifinals before the Americans finished off a 3-1 win, and France entered these Olympics on a 17-game winning streak.
Still, the Americans allowed more goals in the first handful of minutes Wednesday than they had allowed in any game since the World Cup final loss to Japan. Gaetane Thiney (12th minute) and Marie-Laure Delie (14th) found holes in a supposedly impenetrable defense — a potential cause for U.S. concern as the grueling tournament progresses.
“It’s not the game we wanted to play,” defender and captain Christie Rampone said. “But we’ve got a lot of games ahead of us to try and get our rhythm back.”
Another concern for the Americans: Midfielder Shannon Boxx left in the first half with a hamstring injury and is day-to-day.
“Magic things could happen after a good sleep,” Sundhage said. “So we’ll just wait and see.”