Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach of USA look dejected during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final match between Japan and USA at the FIFA World Cup stadium Frankfurt, July 17, 2011. (Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)
By Larry Fine
DALLAS, May 15 (Reuters) – After an agonizing loss to Japan in last year’s World Cup final, the U.S. women’s soccer team is determined to rebound by winning a third consecutive Olympic title in London this year.
“We want nothing more than a gold medal and we’re going to do anything we possibly can to get on that podium at the end and receive that gold medal around our necks,” U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd said at the U.S. Olympic Media Summit on Tuesday.
The U.S. women led 1-0 with nine minutes left in regulation and held a 2-1 lead with three minutes left in overtime but both times Japan equalized to send the World Cup final in Frankfurt to penalty kicks, with Japan prevailing 3-1.
Midfielder Heather O’Reilly, who won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008, reiterated the soccer team’s mission statement.
“Anything less than a gold probably will be a disappointment for us,” O’Reilly said. “That’s just the standards that have been made for the women’s national team and we think that’s a privilege to play under those standards, so one game at a time and we think that we’ll get there.”
As wrenching a defeat as the World Cup loss was, Lauren Cheney saw the positives that came from the result when the U.S. team went to Japan for a friendly against the team that became a shining beacon for the island nation ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami.
“Going to Japan and seeing the just awful tragedy that happened there and seeing the girls that were young coming out to our practices and seeing how much joy they had, I think that really lifted our spirits,” the 24-year-old forward said.
“Losing to Japan in the World Cup was devastating, but they really brought so much hope to a nation that was in need at that time.”
Lloyd said she admired Japan’s style of play.
“There’s really no superstars on the team. They play simple, don’t do anything super-fancy,” Lloyd said. “It’s whoever’s open, they play to that person. They play five-yard balls, they play balls down the line, they’re always moving for each other.
“It’s all about finding the space on the field and they do a really good job of that, and they are physical and they’re fit. They’re a great team.”
Striker Alex Morgan said the U.S. team was eager for a rematch against Japan in the Olympics.
“We definitely hope to see Japan again,” said Morgan. “They are the champions of the World Cup. We’re looking for them, whether it’s the semi-finals or finals, they’re definitely someone we’re looking forward to.”