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 US women's soccer team won its third straight Olympic gold medal today, 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. 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. Asuna Tanaka nearly had the equalizer in the 83rd minute, only to be thwarted when Solo flung her entire body to the left to push the ball away. (Read more 2012 London Olympics stories.)