The reigining Olympic champion United States women’s soccer team beat Canada 4-3 thanks to an Alex Morgan goal late in extra time to reach the final after an extraordinary match on Monday.
With the players on both sides exhausted, penalties looming and the referee looking at her watch, the former Cal standout Morgan powered home a header to put the U.S. in front for the first time after Canada had led three times in a pulsating game at Old Trafford.
The winner came with 122 minutes, 25 seconds on the clock. Sixty seconds later, the match was over.
“I’m still in shock thinking of what just happened,” Morgan said. “I don’t care who scores as long as we score and that’s all that matters. I didn’t even see it go in. I just try and be in the right position. It was a crazy battle. Coming back and back and back. After we scored they scored, it was amazing.”
The U.S. — which has now reached all five women’s Olympic finals, taking gold in 1996, 2004 and 2008 — will meet Japan in Thursday’s gold-medal decider at Wembley Stadium seeking its third successive gold and their fourth in total.
Japan, which overcame France 2-1 earlier on Monday, beat the U.S. on penalties in last year’s World Cup final.
Canada’s stunned players were in tears at the end and Christine Sinclair, whose hat trick looked as though it would prove enough for victory, was especially distraught.
But every time she scored, the U.S. showed the mark of champions and responded for a fifth successive win in the tournament to claim a place in the gold-medal match.
“I’m very proud of this team for making the final,” Abby Wambach said. “I never had a doubt. It’s exactly what we hoped for [playing Japan in the final] after that World Cup loss.”
Extra time looked set to end without a goal after Wambach’s header hit the bar in the 119th minute but that was not the last of the drama, and deep into added time Morgan headed in a right-wing cross for the dramatic winner.
“The heart we showed today was absolutely huge,” said Megan Rapinoe. “It’s a little bit of a trademark of our team.”