USA’s hopes of Olympic gold were undone by a rare defeat against Canada
Stars and Stripes will face Australia for a bronze medal on Thursday
Rapinoe: “Any medal is really special, and we can’t lose sight of that.”
USA’s charge to regain the gold medal ended on a sour note on Monday with defeat against North American rivals Canada. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the all-conquering Stars and Stripes, that it was a first defeat against their northern neighbours for 20 years merely added to the heartbreak. Long-time queens of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, the four-time gold medallists had set their sights on regaining the title they lost in 2016. Instead Jessie Fleming’s 75th-minute penalty was enough to lift a joyous Canada into their first Gold Medal Match. Such has been the US’s dominance at the six previous editions of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, they have never suffered a knockout round defeat during regular time.
The challenge for USA now is to refocus for the Bronze Medal Match inside just 72 hours. But just how difficult will that be for the long-standing world No1 that is used to featuring only on the highest of stages? “It is difficult and easy at the same time,” Rapinoe told FIFA.com. “We don’t lose too often so we typically bounce back pretty well. Obviously we have goals of winning a gold medal, but any medal is really special, and we can’t lose sight of that. “Especially considering the year everyone has gone through and what it has taken to just be on the women’s national team. I think we have a ton still to play for. Of course pride, and we want to end on a good note. “I think taking home a bronze medal would be a great accomplishment for this team. Our standards are perfection all the time and we really never reached that (in Japan). We wanted the gold medal but we still have a ton to play for.”
Victory in the Bronze Medal Match against Australia will be far from straight forward for a USA side enduring a rare slump by their own lofty standards. The Stars and Stripes have managed just one win from five outings at Tokyo 2020. USA slumped to a shock 3-0 loss against Sweden though a 6-1 rout of New Zealand seemed likely to kick-start their campaign. That was followed by an uninspired scoreless draw against Australia, while they needed a penalty shootout to outlast the Netherlands in an epic quarter-final. “There are a 100 things that we would probably want to do better, and that is the most frustrating part,” Rapinoe added at the post-match press conference. “We have a great group preparing us in our coaching staff.
“It is frustrating and sad because these things only come around so often. It is a tough one to swallow.
“We need to perform better, period. We are not finding open passes, we are not doing the simple things.” Incredibly USA have failed to score in three matches at Tokyo 2020. By comparison US had failed to find the net in just two matches across six previous tournaments. “Football always needs joy and when the game is really played at its best is when you have that,” said Rapinoe. “I feel like we haven’t been able to find that (in Japan). Everything has just been a little bit of a struggle. I hope we find it in the final match. There is a medal on the line and that means everything.”