Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – Outspoken USA women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo labelled Sweden “cowards” after the world champions’ bid for a fourth straight Olympic gold ended, whilst Brazil edged past Australia in a marathon penalty shootout despite a miss from star Marta in the quarter-finals.
Sweden progressed to their first ever Olympics semi-final 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Brasilia as Sweden coach Pia Sundhage ousted the US team she led to gold in 2008 and 2012.
“We played a bunch of cowards,” Solo told Sports Illustrated.
“The better team did not win today. I strongly believe that. I think you saw American heart. You saw us give everything we had today.”
Star striker Alex Morgan and substitute Christen Press missed penalties before Lisa Dahlkvist converted the winning spot-kick despite Solo’s best efforts to put her off by changing gloves to delay Dahlkvist’s effort.
“It is ok to be coward if you win,” Sundhage shot back.
“What she did was an act of panic,” said Swedish ‘keeper Hedvig Lindahl of Solo’s time-wasting tactics before the final penalty.
USA coach Jill Ellis tried to diffuse the row.
“They executed her game plan very well. It’s a matter of knowing how to use all the resources you have,” said the Englishwoman.
“And finally the most important thing is the result, not how to play.”
120 minutes of high drama in front of a near capacity 60,000 crowd in Belo Horizonte produced no goals between Brazil and Australia.
Both teams then found the net with their first four penalties, but Brazil’s bid for a first gold medal looked lost when national hero Marta saw her effort saved by Lydia Williams.
The five-time World Player of the Year was on her knees in tears of relief seconds later, though, as Barbara parried Katrina Gorry’s spot-kick to keep the hosts alive.
Another five penalties were scored before Barbara produced more heroics to turn Alanna Kennedy’s shot behind for a 7-6 win and spark wild scenes of celebration.
“I didn’t want to be the focus of attention in that way,” said Marta.
“I leave (the attention) to Barbara.”
– Rematch –
Next up for Brazil is a rematch with Sweden, who they beat 5-1 in the group stages, in Rio’s iconic Maracana on Tuesday.
Sweden inflicted America’s first in 15 games at the Olympics and only their third ever in Games history having won four golds and a silver since women’s football was introduced to the Olympic programme.