Soccer: U.S. showed heart to beat better Japan side - coach
LONDON (Reuters) - The United States had to dig deep and show huge heart to beat a "better" Japan side and retain their women's Olympic soccer title, their coach Pia Sundhage said after Thursday's 2-1 win.
Japan finished the final strongly after going 2-0 behind early in the second half but Sundhage was full of praise for the way her team battled to claim a third successive Olympic gold.
"It is a huge credit to the Japan team that they forced us to change our game plan," she said after an emotional, magical night at Wembley Stadium.
"Japan were too good for us. However, we defended well and showed huge heart to win - playing against a better team in a big final at Wembley.
"We won the gold medal and I have to credit my team for the way they dug in and played. I am so happy right now."
The Swedish-born coach, who led the U.S. to the gold in Beijing four years ago, momentarily stood on the pitch looking at the sky after their triumph.
Asked what she was thinking Sundhage said: "It's hard to put it into words. It is just so huge. You've just won the Olympic gold at Wembley Stadium. It's hard to put it into words in English, its even harder in Swedish," she joked.
The U.S., who lost to Japan on penalties in last year's World Cup final, were determined to avenge that defeat and got the perfect start when Carli Lloyd headed them in front after only eight minutes.
She doubled the lead with a stunning run and shot nine minutes after the break but Japan, playing tight, controlled soccer, fought their way back when Yuki Ogimi capitalized on some slack U.S. defending to score after 63 minutes.
Lloyd echoed her coach's words about showing some real fighting spirit.
"It was a big moment for us and we knew we could come out and beat them. We weren't coming home without a gold medal.
"We had to be physical, we had to dig deep, you just never know with them. We had to fight to the very end."
Japan coach Norio Sasaki said: "Although I am disappointed, you have to keep this in perspective. We have ended the Olympics with a silver medal and that is something very special."
(Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Ken Ferris)