Wambach rolls back years to put Americans into semi-finals

US 2 New Zealand 0

Click to follow
The Independent Online

These were supposed to be the Hope Solo Olympics for the United States women's football team. Or the Alex Morgan Games. Instead, they belong so far to the old reliable Abby Wambach, who has scored in every match to lead the Americans into the semi-finals.

The 32-year-old striker slid on to a pass in the 27th minute to knock home her fourth goal of the tournament yesterday and then celebrated with a cartwheel in the US's 2-0 win over New Zealand in the quarter-finals of the Olympic tournament in Newcastle.

Sydney Leroux added an insurance goal in the 87th minute for the Americans, who have won the last two women's football gold medals.

Wambach extended her US record with her eighth career Olympic goal and pushed her international tally to 142.

For most of this year, Morgan has been scoring the goals but in the Olympic event the 23-year-old has turned playmaker, and it was her hard work which set up Wambach's goal yesterday. Taking a long ball from Rachel Buehler, Morgan beat one defender and threaded her pass through two others to put the ball on Wambach's foot at the far post. The US players, always looking for novel ways to celebrate, ran to the corner of the pitch and started doing cartwheels before the crowd of 10,441.

Wambach's scoring run is remarkable given all the attention she attracts from defenders. She's still one of the strongest players in the game and is unmatched in the air, yet three of her four goals have come with her feet. She's also constantly battling tendinitis in her achilles and used a series of holistic and traditional treatments to get ready for the Olympics.

The only downside to Wambach's performance was a yellow card, picked up in the 42nd minute for a hard tackle on midfielder Katie Hoyle. US midfielder Carli Lloyd also was given a yellow card for a foul in the 79th.

Solo recorded her third consecutive clean sheet, although once again she was rarely challenged. The Americans haven't let in a goal since France scored twice early in the first half of the Olympic opener.

New Zealand, ranked 23rd in the world, were making their first appearance in the knockout phase of a major tournament. "The Football Ferns" have lost nine straight games to the Americans, with their only win in the series coming 25 years ago.

While still on a winning streak, the Americans had trouble turning dominance into goals for the third straight game. They led Colombia 1-0 before getting two goals late in the second half and beat North Korea 1-0, albeit after slowing the game down in the second half to save their leg.

Morgan was just wide with a pair of solid scoring chances, and Morgan and Wambach both had scary collisions with New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon. Wambach had clashed with Bindon in the first half, and Morgan did the same in the second half.

Leroux, the youngest player on the team and the only one who wasn't on last year's World Cup squad, came on as a substitute in the 81st minute and soon had her first Olympic goal, outpacing the New Zealand defenders with a run down the left side and beating Bindon with a strong left-footed finish.