TOKYO (Reuters) -The United States women’s team won the Olympics bronze medal with Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd scoring two goals each in a 4-3 win over Australia in Kashima on Thursday.
The Americans, World Cup winners in 2019, had gone into the Tokyo Games as heavy favourites for gold but after some underwhelming displays were beaten by Canada in the semi-finals.
For spells against the Australians, seeking their first medal in the sport, the old swagger of the U.S. team was back with two of their veterans, in what could well be their final appearance in a major tournament, offering a reminder of their quality.
Rapinoe fired the U.S. ahead in the eighth minute direct from a corner which Aussie keeper Teagan Micah flapped at.
Sam Kerr levelled for Australia in the 17th minute, her 48th goal for the Matildas making her their all-time top scorer.
Rapinoe restored the Americans’ advantage with a fine volley after a woeful attempted clearance from Alanna Kennedy looped across the box to the grateful forward.
The 39-year-old Lloyd produced a clinical finish to make it 3-1 just before the break, collecting a pass from Lindsey Horan and burying it, first time, into the far corner.
Another defensive error from Kennedy, this time a weak head back towards her keeper, gifted Lloyd her second which she slipped between Micah’s legs to make it 4-1 in the 51st minute.
Three minutes later though, a Caitlin Foord header from a Kyah Simon cross brought Australia back into the match and Kerr then hit the post with a fine, glancing header.
But the Americans held firm until Aussie substitute Emily Gielnik added a third with a long-range effort in the 90th minute.
U.S coach Vlatko Andonovski, in charge of the side at a major tournament for the first time, said it had been a difficult competition for his team, who suffered a 3-0 defeat to Sweden in their opening group game.
“There were tough moments, it started really tough, that first loss made a mark for the rest of the tournament…but to finish the tournament with the game that we did, I am proud of the players,” he said.
Australia’s fourth place was their best ever finish in an Olympics tournament, but forward Steph Catley regretted missing out on a medal.
“Coming so close to a medal is heartbreaking, especially really taking it to the top teams in the world and out-playing them at times and … it just feels like we were right there and it’s just been snapped from us. It’s definitely tough to take,” she said.
Sweden and Canada meet in the gold medal game on Friday.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ken Ferris and Hugh Lawson)