Olympic soccer update: Score one for the underdogs

Olympics | Dominant U.S. women’s team falters ahead of the quarterfinals
by Jae Wasson
Posted 8/10/16, 09:57 pm

The top-ranked U.S. women’s soccer team conceded its first Olympic goal last night when Colombian player Catalina Usme took a free kick, slipping the ball through Hope Solo’s legs into the back of the net.

The U.S. women couldn’t pull off a win, drawing with Colombia 2-2 to advance to the quarterfinals in a game that could only serve as a reminder the gold-medal favorites are still human. The men’s and women’s qualifying soccer matches finish Wednesday, ending this stage of the tournament with some surprising upsets.

“I think the toughest opponents are going to be ourselves,” Carli Lloyd, the U.S. team captain, said before the tournament. “No other team should intimidate our team.”

But the United States could still be beaten. U.S. women played New Zealand, France, and Colombia in qualifiers, defeating New Zealand easily. But France, ranked No. 3, threatened to score multiple times before the Americans pulled out a 1-0 win.

Then the American women faced Colombia, a team France had previously beaten 4-0. They conceded two goals against the already-eliminated team. The result could set the U.S. women up for an interesting quarterfinal against Sweden on Friday and even more interesting later games against Brazil and France.

Brazil has dominated, winning its opening matches 8-1, a better scoreline than the U.S. women. France also is winning its games with ease, beating New Zealand by a larger margin than the U.S. team did.

If the U.S. women are feeling overconfident, the team only needs to look at Argentina to remember even the best teams can lose at this stage.

Argentina, two-time gold medalists, stumbled this morning before a persistent Honduras team. Argentina knew it had to win to reach the quarterfinals but played carefully, failing over and over again to convert chances. Argentinian hopes crumbled when Angel Correa sent a penalty shot wide of the post.

Honduras advances. And Argentina, for the first time since 1964, is going home before the quarterfinals.

Honduras is not the only team performing above expectations in Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil’s last game, local fans booed their own players as Iraq—like South Africa in the game before it—held the tournament favorites to a scoreless draw. If Brazil does not win against Denmark tonight, it will be eliminated.

Big tournaments like this have their ups and downs, but Tobin Heath, part of a core group of Christian players on the U.S. team, said her faith keeps her humble and fighting hard.

“Becoming known or noticed in my sport isn’t what drives me to work hard and want to be the best I can be,” she said in 2011. “It’s Jesus. That’s why I play. I play to glorify Him. … I try to keep that as my motivation when I step out on the field every day.”

Jae Wasson

Jae is a Zenger House fellow

Read more from this writer