Alex Morgan scored twice as USA made a dramatic winning start to their Olympic title defence, coming from two goals down to beat France 4-2 at Glasgow’s Hampden Park. The Americans’ stirring fightback was the memorable highlight of a truly thrilling match that, in pitting together the two form teams in women’s football, more than lived up to its billing.
France were aiming for revenge for semi-final exit at the Americans’ hands at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, and they stunned the reigning Olympic champions by storming into a 2-0 lead inside 14 minutes. Their first goal was a thing of beauty, crashed home from 25 yards by Gaetane Thiney, although Hope Solo will have been disappointed by her failure to keep it out after getting a hand to the ball.
This was not the start Pia Sundhage’s side had planned, and two minutes later US disappointment turned to dismay when they fell two behind. This time, it was their inability to clear a corner which proved costly, with Marie-Laure Delie taking full advantage of a frantic penalty box scramble to double France’s lead with a powerful low drive, which deflected beyond Solo from 12 yards.
USA were in need of a saviour, and one arrived in predictable form. So often her team’s talisman, Abby Wambach rose majestically at the back post to loop home a header from Megan Rapinoe’s corner and haul the Americans back into contention. It was the game’s third goal in just seven breathless minutes, but if the Hampden crowd thought the best of the excitement was over, they were very much mistaken.
Sundhage’s side were continuing to press relentlessly and, just after the half-hour mark, Alex Morgan claimed a deserved equaliser, lobbing coolly beyond the advancing Sarah Bouhaddi after French defender Wendie Renard had inadvertently headed the ball into her path. USA were in the ascendancy now and, despite the odd flurry of excitement in Solo’s penalty box, it was no great surprise when the holders took the lead 11 minutes into the second half.
This was the pick of the game’s six goals, crashed home by Carli Lloyd, the US hero in 2008, who sidestepped her marker before sending the ball swerving and dipping into the far corner from 25 yards. And there was still time for Morgan to complete the comeback, tapping home at the back post after three players, Bouhaddi included, had failed to connect with Tobin Heath’s inviting low cross.