Solo comes up big for 200th cap, US beats France 1-0
ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 07, 2016 09:14 AM
United States' goalkeeper Hope Solo, center, grabs the ball as France's Kadidiatou Diani looks on during a group G match of the women's Olympic football tournament between United States and France at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Eugenio Savio)
ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Love her or hate her, Hope Solo's dominance as a goalkeeper is undeniable.
Solo came up big in her historic 200th international appearance as the United States fought off France 1-0 on Saturday in an Olympic group match at Mineirao Stadium. And she did it while facing boos from Brazilian fans still riled up about her social media posts about the Zika virus.
"What's important to me is that I played the best quality of football that I can play, and that hopefully our team makes it to the final," Solo said. "If they (the fans) are having fun, great. I like a loud stadium. But it really doesn't mean anything to me."
Solo became the first goalkeeper, male or female, to reach the 200-cap mark in international play. She also became just the 11th U.S. player to reach that number of appearances.
The U.S. women, winners of last year's World Cup and ranked No. 1 in the world, are vying for their fourth straight Olympic gold medal. Along with the tournament-opening victory over New Zealand, the United States is in good position for the quarterfinals.
France, ranked No. 3, was considered the Americans' biggest rival in the group. And they proved a tenacious foe.
Carli Lloyd's goal finally broke through in the 64th minute against France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi. Tobin Heath's shot caromed off the post and while Bouhaddi struggled to recover, Lloyd tapped in the rebound for her eighth Olympic goal.
"Never forget that the U.S. is the world champion," French coach Philippe Bergeroo said.
For the first half, it was all Solo.
She tipped Wendie Renard's header from a free kick off the crossbar in the 16th minute. Her most dramatic stop came in the 41st when Marie-Laure Delie charged in alone and Solo collapsed to her knees to smother the shot.
"She was getting free and I knew she was going to crack a shot as soon as she saw the goal, so I just tried to close her as quickly as I could. And I as I closed her — some people think she went through my legs on purpose because it was the only part that was open because I had her closed down — I don't really think so, I think she just tried to crack a shot," Solo said.
The 200th cap was Solo's latest accomplishment in a 16-year international career.
Last month, she became the first goalkeeper with 100 international shutouts when the United States defeated South Africa 1-0 at Soldier Field in Chicago. It was also her 150th career win.
Solo won her second straight Golden Glove Award for the best goalkeeper at the Women's World Cup a year ago. Over the course of the tournament in Canada, she had five clean sheets and allowed only three goals in seven games.
She irked some Brazilians before the games started when she posted a photo of herself decked out in mosquito netting and armed with insecticide, with the caption: "Not sharing this!!! Get your own! (hashtag) zikaproof." As a result, fans at Mineirao Stadium have booed her every time she touched the ball.
But following Saturday's match, Solo had apparently turned some of the fans in her favor. While the team was cooling down in the end zone area, the crowd could be heard chanting "Hope! Hope! Hope!"
"I'm just being myself playing soccer," she said. "They can love me or hate me, I'm just going to continue doing the same things."
The players said the boos were not a distraction as the team was focused on becoming the first to win at an Olympics following a World Cup title.
United States coach Jill Ellis made a couple of changes in her lineup for the match. Whitney Engen came in for defender Julie Johnston, who is out with groin soreness, and Crystal Dunn came in for Mallory Pugh, who hurt an ankle in the opener.
But the most stunning lineup change was made by France, which did not start star Eugenie Le Sommer, who scored in France's 4-0 victory over Colombia. It was not clear whether Le Sommer was injured.
With the victory, the United States improves to 16-0-1 this year. Lloyd's goal was her 11th of the year and 90th of her career. She also scored in the opener against New Zealand.
"I think the crowd only gets going when Hope has the ball," Lloyd said about the atmosphere. "I think they're having fun with it at this point. They'll probably go for the whole tournament."
The United States plays Colombia in its final group match on Tuesday in Manaus. France will play New Zealand.