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US defeats Japan to win women's soccer gold

Joseph White
USA forward Abby Wambach fires up her teammates during the second half against Japan of the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
USA forward Abby Wambach (14) celebrates with goalkeeper Hope Solo, right, and defender Christie Rampone following a 2-1 victory over Japan in the Olympics women's soccer final.
Chuck Myers
USA goalie Hope Solo falls to the ground after knocking a shot away in the first half against Japan in the women's soccer final. The U.S. won, 2-1.
Robert Gauthier
USA forward Abby Wambach, center, sings the U.S. national anthem with her teammates during the medal ceremony for the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA won the gold medal with a 2-1 victory over Japan.
Chuck Myers
USA forward Rachel Buehler (16) blocks a shot by Japan defender Azusa Iwashimizu, left, during the second half of the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
Japan's Aya Miyama (8) is consoled by teammates and a team staff member following a 2-1 loss to the USA in the Olympics women's soccer final.
Chuck Myers
USA goalie Hope Solo falls to the ground as she tries to keep Japan's Yuki Ogimi from scoring early in the women's soccer final. The U.S. won, 2-1.
Robert Gauthier
USA soccer players Kelley O'Hara (5), Christie Rampone (3), Shannon Boxx (7) and Abby Wambach (14) celebrate following a 2-1 victory over Japan in the Olympics women's soccer final.
Chuck Myers
Japan defender Saki Kumagai (4) and USA forward Abby Wambach (14) battle for a header during the second half of the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
USA forward Abby Wambach (14) celebrates following a 2-1 victory over Japan in the Olympics women's soccer final.
Chuck Myers
USA midfielder Carli Lloyd controls the ball seconds before scoring a goal, her second of the game, in the second half against Japan in the women's soccer final. The U.S. won, 2-1.
Robert Gauthier
USA midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) scores against Japan goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto in the first half of the Olympics women's soccer gold medal match. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
Japan goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto, right, makes a save against USA forward Rachel Buehler during the second half of the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
The USA's Abby Wambach (14) celebrates with teammate Shannon Boxx after beating Japan, 2-1, in the women's soccer final.
Robert Gauthier
Japan midfielder Nahomi Kawasumi, right, tangles with USA defender Amy le Peilbet (6) during a battle for the ball in the second half of the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
USA's Carli Lloyd outjumps Japan's Homare Sawa (10) for a ball in the women's soccer final. The U.S. won, 2-1.
Robert Gauthier
USA midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) celebrates with teammate Kelley O'Hara (5), following her second goal against Japan. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
USA defender Kelley O'Hara (3) battles for the ball with Japan's Shinobu Ohno (11) during the first half of the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
The USA's Abby Wambach (14) cries out as she is tackled by Japan midfielder Aya Miyama in the women's soccer final. The U.S. won, 2-1.
Robert Gauthier
USA forward Abby Wambach (14) battles for a header with Japan defender Azusa Iwashimizu (3) during the first half of the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
Japan defender Azusa Iwashimizu, back, blocks a pass by USA midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) during the second half of the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
Japan forward Shinobu Ohno (11) heads a shot on goal past USA defender Kelley O'Hara (3) during the first half of the Olympics women's soccer gold medal match. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
USA's Alex Morgan slips past a fallen Saki Kumagai of Japan in the women's soccer final . The U.S. won, 2-1.
Robert Gauthier
USA defender Kelley O'Hara (3) blocks a shot by Japan midfielder Nahomi Kawasumi in the first half of the Olympics women's soccer gold medal match. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
Japan goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto (1) leaps high to make a save before USA forward Abby Wambach (14) could make a play on the ball during the second half of the Olympics women's soccer final. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
USA goalkeeper Hope Solo makes a save during the first half against Japan in the Olympics women's soccer gold medal match. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
The U.S. women's soccer team wins its third consecutive Olympic gold medal by beating Japan, 2-1, as Christine Rampone leaps up into the arms of Abby Wambach and goalie Hope Solo, right.
Brian Peterson
USA goalkeeper Hope Solo (1) is congratulated by teammates after she made a save against Japan in the Olympics women's soccer gold medal match. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
The USA women's soccer team celebrates with their gold medals following a 2-1 victory over Japan in the Olympics women's soccer final.
Chuck Myers
USA goalkeeper Hope Solo makes a save in traffic during the first half against Japan in the Olympics women's soccer gold medal match. The USA defeated Japan, 2-1.
Chuck Myers
USA forward Abby Wambach celebrates with a U.S. flag following a 2-1 victory over Japan in the Olympics women's soccer final.
Chuck Myers

WEMBLEY, England — Hope Solo found herself enveloped in a group hug at the final whistle. Abby Wambach ran to join the fun in a celebration that unleashed a year of bottled-up frustration.

The U.S. women's soccer team won its third straight Olympic gold medal Thursday, beating Japan 2-1 in a rematch of last year's World Cup final and avenging the most painful loss in its history.

Carli Lloyd scored early in both halves, Solo leaped and dived to make saves, and the entire roster found the redemption it had been seeking since that penalty kick shootout loss in Germany last summer.

Before 80,203 at Wembley Stadium, a record crowd for a women's soccer game at the Olympics, the teams put on a back-and-forth, don't-turn-your-head soccer showcase, proving again that these are the two premier teams in the world. Women's soccer is still in its formative stages in Britain, but the match proved more than worthy for the hallowed grounds of the beautiful game.

And the Japanese perhaps played just as beautifully as the Americans, using their speed and discipline to dominate possession and scoring chances for long stretches before finally cutting a 2-0 deficit in half with about a half-hour to go.

Back home, America was paying attention — just as it was last year and despite the rest of the Olympic events. Even President Barack Obama, during a campaign speech at Colorado College during the second half of the game, noted that, "The women are doing pretty good right now in soccer."

Lloyd's goals came in eighth and 54th minutes, making it four goals in the tournament for the midfielder who lost her long-held starting job weeks before the Olympics. She got back on the pitch when Shannon Boxx injured her hamstring in the opening game and started every game since.

Yuki Ogimi answered in the 63rd minute, and Asuna Tanaka nearly had the equalizer in the 83rd — only to be thwarted when Solo flung her entire body to the left to push the ball away.

The U.S. team has won four of the five Olympic titles since women's soccer was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Games, settling for mere silver at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

In the first half, Japan was unfortunate not to have a penalty kick awarded for a clear hand ball by U.S. midfielder Tobin Heath, who stuck out her left arm to stop a free kick inside the area.

Japan also had two shots hit the crossbar, one off the left hand of a leaping Solo, who was kept consistently busy for the first time this tournament. The closest the U.S. came to doubling the lead in the first 45 minutes came when Azusa Iwashimizu attempted to clear a routine ball played in front of the net — and headed it off the post.

The U.S. goal in the eighth minute began with a run by Heath down the left side. She fed Alex Morgan, who settled the ball near the goal line, spun and chipped it toward Wambach. Wambach raised her left foot for the shot, but Lloyd charged in and got to it first, her strong running header beating goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto from 6 yards out.

Lloyd extended the lead with a 20-yard right-footer just inside the left post after a long run with the ball through the middle of the Japanese defense.

Ogimi soon cut the deficit to one after a mad scramble in front of the net. Captain Christie Rampone saved a shot off the line, but the ball went to Homare Sawa, who fed Ogimi for the tap-in.

Another scramble followed after U.S. defender Amy LePeilbet saved yet another shot off the line in the 74th minute, but this time her teammates were able to corral the ball before a Japanese player could pounce on it.

Boxx was back into the starting lineup after the missing four games with the hamstring injury. Lauren Cheney, who injured an ankle in the semifinals, began the game on the bench for the first time this tournament.

Canada won the bronze earlier Thursday, beating France 1-0 at Coventry.

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By JOSEPH WHITE
Associated Press