On Wednesday, July 25 the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team will open the London 2012 Olympic Games Women’s Soccer Tournament against France in a match played at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. Entering the competition as the reigning Olympic Champion and as finalists in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the U.S. is among the favorites, along with reigning World Cup champion Japan and host Great Britain.
The U.S. Women’s Team has a proud history in Olympic competition. Let’s take a few column inches to remember their contributions to U.S. and Olympic soccer history.
Over the previous four Olympic Games that have included women’s soccer (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Greece 2004, and Beijing 2008), the U.S. has returned home with three gold medals and one silver. In 22 Olympic tournament matches, the women have won 17, lost only twice, and have three ties; a gaudy 84% winning record.
Atlanta 1996: The inaugural women’s soccer tournament was a resounding success, on the field and in the stands. In its five matches, the women won four, including the final over China 2 – 1, and tied one in front of an average crowd of almost 50,000, the precursor that made U.S. Soccer gamble on big venues for the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by the United States.
The final was an exciting and tight match as it followed a 0 – 0 tie against China in an earlier group match. Following a 2 – 1 overtime victory against Norway on a Shannon MacMillan goal, the final, played at the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, found MacMillan and Tiffeny Milbrett providing the scoring to bring the U.S. the gold medal.
Sydney 2000: After defeating Norway in its opening match 2 – 0, the Norwegians came back to win the gold medal match 3 -2 in overtime. The U.S. had two wins in addition to the initial win and tied China in the first round.
Greece 2004: In the last competitive event for U.S. Women’s “Fab Five,” (Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly) all veterans of the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup victory, the U.S found the back of the net twice against Brazil, the last on an Abby Wambach header off a corner kick in overtime, to win its second gold medal. The U.S. went through the games undefeated, suffering only a 1 – 1 tie with Australia in the final group game. In addition to the final going to overtime, the U.S. defeated Germany 2 – 1 in overtime in its semifinal match.
Beijing 2008: Thirty days after losing leading scorer Abby Wambach in a warm-up match against Brazil, the U.S. opened its Olympic campaign with a 2 – 0 loss to Norway. Going into the tournament many questioned whether the team had the ability to match its illustrious history with Wambach out of the team. Finishing its preliminary round group with victories over Japan and New Zealand, the U.S. entered the quarterfinal against traditional rival Canada. An overtime 2 – 1 victory led to a semifinal against Japan and a 4 – 2 victory. The final against Brazil went to overtime once again, as it had in Greece 2004, before a Carli Lloyd goal earned the U.S. Women their third gold medal in a 1 – 0 victory..
Will London 2012 be another celebration for U.S. women’s soccer? The first round opponents are France, Columbia, and Korea DPR. France was the U.S.’s semifinal opponent in last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the U.S. coming away with a 3- 1 in a very tight match. The U.S. faced Korea DPR and Columbia in the group stage of last year’s tournament, defeating both teams by 2-0 and 3-0 score lines, respectively. If the team successfully negotiates the group stage, it will lead to the quarterfinal match. Potential opponents and the other eight teams in the tournament are: Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden. Quarterfinals will take place on August 3rd, the semifinals on August 6th. The final, to be staged in the traditional home of England football, Wembley Stadium, is on August 9th.
Can the U.S. emerge as champions again? Can’t wait to enjoy the soccer and find out the answer!
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