The United States Women’s National Team are flying home with hardware in tow after defeating Australia 4-3 in a hard fought battle to capture the bronze medal. This is the first time in the Olympics that the Americans have won bronze and their fourth third place finish in history at a major tournament, with the last one coming in the 2007 World Cup.
The Australians got pressure first but couldn’t convert in the first few minutes sending the ball over the net in the opening minutes. The United States came out with an energy in this game that has been nonexistent at earlier points in the tournament, putting pressure on the Australians leading to a corner in the 8th minute. On that corner, Megan Rapinoe swung the ball in and curled it over everybody’s heads and into the far corner to make it 1-0 in favor of the US. Rapinoe’s strike was the earliest goal in a bronze medal game in Olympic women’s soccer history. Just minutes after that, defender Tierna Davidson tried to thread the ball to Becky Sauerbrunn but it was intercepted by Caitlin Foord who passed it to Sam Kerr who sent it off the hand of Adrianna Franch and in to tie the game up in the 13th minute. The Australians maintained the pressure on the American backline forcing a punch from Franch to prevent the Matilda’s going up 2-1 not long after. Almost immediately after that on the other end the Australians turned the ball over right to a wide open Rapinoe who calmly and confidently picked the ball up on a volley and made it 2-1 in favor of the Americans. Later in the first half Carli Lloyd received a pass in the box and fired the ball in with tremendous pace to give the USWNT a 3-1 lead going into the half. Out of the half the US continued to put pressure on the Aussies with Carli Lloyd speeding past the defenders and easily past Australian goalie Teagan Micah to make it 4-1 in the 51st minute.
The Australians would not go away that easily though, as just three minutes after Lloyd’s second score, a wide open Foord received a cross into the box and headed it past Franch who was going the wrong way to make it 4-2. A few minutes later Kerr pushed one off the left post and off Franch but the ball stayed out. Later in the second half Carli Lloyd would complete her hat trick but for the 10th time in the tournament the US had a goal that was disallowed. The game would be back and forth with missed opportunities and the US starting to waste time in the 85th minute before the Australians were able to dig it out of the corner, fly up field and in the 89th minute forward Emily Gielnik sent a missile from 25 yards out past Franch to bring the game to within one goal.
The USWNT had to play the last few minutes of the game with ten players when 15 minutes after coming on for Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan had to be helped off the field injured. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski explained the decision to not bring on a player for Morgan by saying that it was against the rules because it was outside of the sub windows.
“The rules. I mean, I would gladly replace her,” Andonovski said. “We already had all of our subs in.”
The fourth-place finish is Australia’s best ever finish in the Olympics and something that head coach Tony Gustavsson hopes the team can build on as they get ready to host the 2023 World Cup alongside New Zealand.
“I said in the circle that I actually hope we never forget the feeling we felt after this loss because that feeling we never want to feel again,” Gustavsson said. “We need to use that as fuel to make sure we work really hard from now on to get one day better so come that World Cup in 2023, we want to have the feeling we had when we played GB in this stadium, that excitement and celebration to win.”