Heather O’Reilly scored less than a minute into the match Tuesday to lead the United States to a 4-0 win over New Zealand and a spot in the quarterfinals of the women’s Olympic football tournament.
The victory left the defending champions atop of Group G with six points, edging Norway on goal difference and avoiding a quarterfinal clash with title contender Brazil. Norway fell 5-1 to Japan in Shanghai. The Americans will now face Canada, which finished third in Group E.
O’Reilly put the U.S. on the board after 40 seconds, controlling the ball from just beyond the center circle before advancing and striking a rainbow shot over New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon, who was off her line.
The U.S. — which had struggled to score so far in the tournament — then got goals from Amy Rodriguez in the 43rd, Lindsay Tarpley in the 57th and Angela Hucles in the 60th.
“Going up that early in the game was just an awesome start for us,” Rodriguez said. “It lifted our team up.”
Rodriguez scored with a left-foot first time shot from inside the area after breaking free from her defenders. Tarpley fired in from near the penalty spot, while Hucles got on the board with an easy shot after Tarpley struck the crossbar.
New Zealand, participating in its first Olympics, was not able to put any pressure on the Americans despite needing a victory to have a chance of advancing.
“That was a killer goal to concede against a team with the quality of the U.S.,” New Zealand coach John Herdman said. “It gave them confidence.”
The U.S. was looking to face Brazil in the next round if it had lost, setting up a rematch of the Olympic final from four years ago in Athens. The Brazilians won Group F with a 3-1 win against Nigeria earlier Tuesday in Beijing.
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage was able to field regular starting defender Lori Chalupny, who missed the team’s match because of dizziness after a collision with teammate Hope Solo in the opening game.
Sundhage also decided to start Buehler instead of veteran Kate Markgraf, who played from the beginning in the first two matches.
“[This win] says a lot about the character of the players on this team,” Chalupny said. “We just want to keep getting better in each game, and that was important today.”
The Americans were coming of a 1-0 win over Japan on Saturday and a 2-0 loss to Norway in the opener last Wednesday.
“I think it’s amazing the fact that we bounced back from that start,” Sundhage said. “We are gaining confidence every single minute we are together.”
The Americans have dominated women’s football in the Olympics since the sport debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Games. It won the gold at home and was second to Norway at the Sydney Games in 2000.
Tags: Olympics, Women's Sports