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USA women's soccer starts gold medal bid Wednesday

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 8/2/2016 by Martin Rogers, USA TODAY Sports

USA women's soccer starts gold medal bid Wendesday © Thomas Shea, USA TODAY Sports USA women's soccer starts gold medal bid Wendesday RIO DE JANEIRO – Carli Lloyd has admitted nothing less than gold will be acceptable for the United States women’s soccer team as it prepares to start its Olympic title defense.

Lloyd, the captain and star midfielder for the USA, knows that the pressure is on as the team strives to win a fourth straight gold medal, with the campaign getting underway against New Zealand in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday evening. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I don’t play the sport and compete to settle for anything less than gold,” Lloyd said. “I know that sounds pretty bold but that just really is what our team is about. I have been to two Olympics so far and I am going for a third gold medal. That’s the plan.”

France and Colombia are also in the USA’s group and if the Americans are able to show the same kind of form they produced in the latter stages of last summer’s Women’s World Cup, they may prove impossible to stop.

A mouthwatering semifinal against Brazil is an intriguing possibility, which would also be the first time the team makes it to Rio, with its group games taking place in Belo Horizonte and Manaus and all of the quarterfinals being staged away from the host city.

“I get asked a lot, which is better between the World Cup and the Olympics?,” Lloyd said. “With the Olympics it is more of a broader aspect as far as representing the country. You are part of such an elite group. It is super special and it becomes more than just our team, we are part of this huge USA team.”

Lloyd, the 2015 FIFA Player of the Year of the year and the standout star of the World Cup with a stunning hat-trick in the final, has produced some of her finest moments during Olympic competition.

Now 34, Lloyd scored the winning goal in the 2008 gold medal game against Brazil. Four years later in London, she scored both USA goals in a 2-1 triumph over Japan, as the Americans bounced back from losing the World Cup final to the same opposition a year earlier.

Lloyd is now firmly established as the best women’s player in the world and one of the best in history, and is determined to assert the USA’s dominance once more.

“I don't think anything compares to the expectations we have for one another,” co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn said. “We know how difficult it will be to be back-to-back winners. That pressure drives us. We always look for that next challenge because we constantly want to achieve that next level of greatness. People expect us to win, we know what it actually takes to win and that comes with a different level of accountability and sacrifice.” 

Brazil struggled during the World Cup but will be buoyed by home advantage, while  No.2-ranked Germany hopes for the chance to atone for its semifinal defeat to the USA last year. 

PHOTOS: ATHLETES ARRIVE AT OLYMPIC VILLAGE

Higor Leite hands out condoms in the international zone at the Olympic Village on July 29. Athletes arrive at Olympic Village in Rio

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