The U.S. women's soccer team successfully defended its Olympic gold medal Thursday night at Beijing Workers' Stadium. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer was at the match, along with a crowd of about 51,000, and reports on the Americans' 1-0 victory over Brazil.
The United States and Brazil also met in the gold medal game at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the result was the same - a U.S. victory by a one goal margin in extra time.
This was a bitter defeat for the Brazilians, who had many more good scoring opportunities than the Americans, but they could not get the ball past American goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Solo had not been in the nets when the USA lost to Brazil 4-0 in the semifinals at last September's World Cup in China. She had been replaced by 2004 Olympic starter Briana Scurry on a hunch, even though Solo had recorded shutouts in the previous three games. That loss resulted in the firing of the coach who made the decision, Greg Ryan.
The U.S. got the only goal of this match in the 96th minute from midfielder Carli Lloyd. From the top left side of the box she blasted a low, left-footed shot into the right corner of the goal. It was just beyond the outstretched arm of Brazilian goalkeeper Barbara.
After losing their first group match at these Olympics to Norway, U.S. team captain Chrisitie Rampone said the Americans were able to maintain their confidence.
"Believing was our main statement throughout this whole tournament," said Chrisitie Rampone. "It didn't start out the way we wanted it to, but we just kept digging and getting better each game, and it was a full team effort. And it's just so exciting. It means something more special when everyone could do it together."
Sitting next to Rampone at the post-game news conference was her coach Pia Sundhage. She was beaming, reminiscing back to her childhood in Sweden when she played soccer with the boys.
"Back then I could never imagine I'd be a professional player or a professional coach," said Pia Sundhage. "And now I'm sitting with a great player in Christie Rampone and look at her gold medal. I am so proud, and I enjoy the moment."
It was nothing but disappointment for the Brazilian women, many whom were crying after the final whistle, and some still with tears in their eyes on the podium after receiving their silver medals.
Brazilian coach Jorge Barcellos made it clear he understood his players' emotions after the difficult 1-0 extra time loss.
"We thought we would win," said Jorge Barcellos. "We were almost sure we were going to make it. We were very sure about it, because of the games we'd played, because of our history, because of the way they'd been playing so far. But football is very complex, very complicated. We dominated, but we didn't make it."
Earlier Thursday in the match for the women's bronze medal, Germany defeated Japan, 2-0.
The U.S. win over Brazil in the finals of the Olympic Football Tournament was the 1000th gold medal in United States history in the Olympic Games. The total does not include the 1906 Games that are not recognized by the IOC.