RIO DE JANEIRO — Hope Solo keeps getting taunted by loud choruses of “Zika!” by grudge-holding Brazilians, Carli Lloyd can’t stop scoring and the United States Women’s National Team keeps winning soccer games.
That familiar tale pretty much told the story of the top-ranked Americans’ 1-0 victory over No. 3 France in Saturday’s showdown at the Rio Olympics.
The U.S. needed Lloyd’s 63rd-minute winner and Solo’s clutch goalkeeping for her 102nd career shutout to take over the top spot of Group G and lock up a spot in the knockout stage of the 12-team tournament by virtue of New Zealand’s 1-0 triumph over Colombia. The world champion Americans are now 16-0-1 on the year.
Solo, making her 200th appearance in the U.S. national team shirt., was berated again and again by fans at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, for tweeting pictures of her bug repellent arsenal to remain Zika-free. But the 35-year-old star goalie did not let the Zika chants get to her, recording six saves including some big stops late as the French pushed for the tying goal.
The U.S. plays Colombia in its final group game on Tuesday in Manaus, the same Amazonian city where the American men faced Portugal in a 2-2 draw during the 2014 World Cup group stage. American coach Jill Ellis will have the luxury of resting some players with her team facing its third game in nine days.
Lloyd, the reigning Ballon d’Or winner as the best player in the women’s game, deservedly continues to get plenty of credit for the U.S.’s success. She scored again for her 11th goal of the season after getting the opener in a 2-0 win over New Zealand on Wednesday. But Lloyd has Tobin Heath to thank for the match winner.
Heath blasted a shot at goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, who pushed the ball away but had it ricochet off the near post and right to Lloyd for the 1-0 USA lead.
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The U.S. boasted 52 percent of the possession at halftime, but the shots tally was a better indication of how the first half went. The French outshot the Americans 8-1, putting three on goal to the U.S.’s zero. Solo had three saves, the most important coming in the 41st minute.
Marie-Laure Delie had Solo one-on-one after being played into the right side of the penalty area. However, Solo stopped the point-blank attempt by Delie to keep the game scoreless.
Solo was also lucky. In the 73rd minute, a ball into the box just missed defender Wendie Renard for a flick header and bounded dangerously past the far post. Then in the 78th, Delie had space to unleash a right-footed blast that Solo had trouble corralling. But no French player was close enough to pounce on the rebound.