Regardless of what happens here at London 2012, Carli Lloyd will forever be an American Olympic heroine. Scoring the only goal of the 2008 final, six minutes into extra time no less, guarantees her that slice of sporting immortality.
But resting on her golden moment in Beijing is clearly not in the midfielder’s mindset. Having been a surprise omission from Pia Sundhage’s starting line-up against France in the tournament opener on Wednesday, the 30-year-old was introduced to the fray with her team 2-0 down and was instrumental in transforming that deficit into an impressive 4-2 win.
The highlight of her contribution was the pick of the game’s six goals - an unstoppable 25-yard shot that edged USA in front for the first time. Yet while it continued her love affair with the Olympics, not to mention confirming her penchant for the spectacular, this latest strike didn't quite measure up to that ’08 title-winner in for Lloyd herself
Speaking to FIFA.com, she said: “It’s tough to beat scoring in an Olympic final and, although I enjoyed today's goal, I can’t compare it to the one I scored in Beijing. Having said that, it was still a big goal at an important time, and it was satisfying for me personally to show that I could come off the bench and change the game, and that I was responding in the right way to not being in the team.
“It felt good to score a goal like that. I couldn’t have hit it any better than I did and I was just delighted to make that kind of impact. The Olympics has been good to me and it’s an event I obviously have very special memories of because of what happened in Beijing. Hopefully what happened today is a sign that we’re in for a repeat of that.”
As a midfielder, Lloyd also took satisfaction from finding the net in the same stadium - and in the same goal - that Zinedine Zidane, one of her position’s finest-ever exponents, scored his most celebrated strike. And while her effort against Zizou’s countrywomen might not rival the Real Madrid icon’s exquisite left-foot volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 UEFA Champions League final, the US star was proud to have added her name to Hampden’s illustrious history.
“Zidane was one of the greatest and that was definitely a very special goal,” she said. “It just reminds you of the kind of history there is here and it’s great to be a small part of that now. We’re really enjoying it all so far. Glasgow’s been awesome and the weather and conditions are perfect for football. We’re looking forward to playing here again.”
USA will return to Scotland’s national stadium on Saturday to face a Colombia side beaten 2-0 by Korea DPR in their Olympic opener, and anything but a win for the reigning champions would count as a major upset. If anything, in fact, the Americans’ status as tournament favourites has been strengthened by their unflustered reaction to falling two goals down against an in-form France side, a response Lloyd attributes to the team’s unshakeable self-belief.
She said: “We’ve been through a lot together in this team and the fact we showed a real calmness today when we went two goals down shows the faith we have in ourselves. Even at the side, I wasn’t worried at all. I just knew that we would come back because that’s what’s great about us: we know how to get the job done. This team is the best in the world and, if anyone could come back from a two-goal deficit, it was us.”
The camaraderie and sense of fun that pervades Pia Sundhage’s squad was on show to the world before the tournament even started, when they became internet sensations with their own version of Miley Cyrus’s ‘Party in the USA’. Lloyd, laughing at the memory of that music video being put together, is certainly a strong advocate of combining the serious business of defending their title with such light-hearted off-field antics.
“I think that has to be the way,” she said. “We’ve definitely had a lot of viewers for that video and had a few laughs too. Hopefully it shows people that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and above all how much we’re enjoying ourselves here. For this team, the Olympics really are super-special. I don’t know what it is that makes us so successful at this event, but long may it continue. We definitely want another gold.”