Solo goes against Olympic spirit, but winning is king

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"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part," is what it says in the Olympic creed. That's the Olympic spirit that the International Olympic Committee tries to foster. But it doesn't always go to plan.

It certainly didn't in the women's soccer quarterfinals. After 120 minutes of action between Sweden and Team USA, the game went to a penalty shootout. Alex Morgan and Christen Press were unsuccessful from 12 yards before Sweden's Lisa Dahlkvist stepped up and took her team to the semifinal.

Except it didn't happen quite that quickly. Prior to Dahlkvist netting from the spot she had to wait for the Team USA goalkeeper Hope Solo to change her gloves in what has been regarded by all as a spot of gamesmanship to put the kicker off.

Solo wasn't done there, though. The American stopper - who was looking for the third Olympic gold medal of her career - made some comments to the media following the game that were definitely not in the spirit that Pierre de Coubertin had in mind.

The goalkeeper branded the Swedish team "a bunch of cowards" in her post-match appraisal. "The best team did not win today," she went on to add, citing the attacking play of her teammates and taking aim at their victors' game plan.

You can understand Solo's frustrations. The 35-year-old had likely just made her final appearance at an Olympics and goalkeepers feel the brunt of losing on a penalty shootout more than most. There's also the fact that when it comes to knockout soccer and major ­international tournaments, Solo and her teammates are almost alone in being so accustomed to winning. That doesn't stop the comments lacking class.

The USA were rightly favorites before the game. They are the current Word Cup holders and have won the last three Olympic titles. This played out in normal time with the reigning champions constantly on the attack while the Swedes concentrated on keeping them at bay - only to take the lead on a rare counter.

The Swedish game plan was sensible. It played to their own strengths and diminished the strengths of the best team in the women's game - what any underdog would be expected to do if they wanted to progress.

It was masterminded by Pia Sundhage, the Swedish coach who was in the dugout for the USA when they won Olympic gold in both Beijing and London. Sundhage shrugged off Solo's criticisms. "It's OK to be a coward if you win," she said. And win they did.

While Solo - who won't face IOC sanctions for her comments - and her teammates are sightseeing or on the plane home, Sweden play the hosts on Tuesday for a spot in the final. They will be second favorites for that game too. While, the most important thing might be the taking part, for 9.8 million cheering them on back home they will take a win however it comes.