U.S. women’s soccer team
‘s dream of Olympic gold ended on Friday after a heartbreaking loss to Sweden.
Following a 1-1 draw during the tournament quarterfinals, Team U.S.A. lost to Sweden 4-3 in penalty kicks – ending their three-time Olympic winning streak since the 2004 Athens Games. If they had won the finals, the U.S. women would have made history by becoming the first county to win Olympic gold while holding the title of world champions.
The team – which includes international superstar Olympic gold medalists and World Cup champs
– were favored to take gold.
Before the disappointing loss,
said she had full faith the women would advance to the Olympic finals despite their
rocky group play match against Colombia
“They’ll be fine,” Hamm, 1996 and 2004 Olympic gold medalist, told PEOPLE. “You can’t play perfect all the time, and they’re such professionals, they’ll be fine. They have so many veterans on that team that are experienced and the coaching staff will have them ready to play.”
“I believe they’re just going to continue to get better through the tournament. Obviously you know what’s at stake – you lose, you go home.”
But unfortunately, for the U.S. women’s national team, they will be going home.
Gutted for these girls. Ugh.
— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) August 12, 2016
Hamm says many of the 2016 women’s soccer teams competing in Rio are incredibly “invested” this year, which ultimately ups the level of competition.
“The level of play and the passion with which these players are playing, you can see it,” she says. “You’re having full-time coaching at different levels, of course U.S., but [other] countries as well now.”
#USWNT ousted after falling to Sweden on PKs https://t.co/3VTmbsT3hC pic.twitter.com/2BcnXDgDlb
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) August 12, 2016
On the U.S. team, Hamm is particularly impressed with the play of Olympic newbies Lindsay Horan and Mallory Pugh.
“I was so excited to see how a lot of the youngsters did!” she says. “I think they are going to continue to develop and find spots on the team.”
And of beloved team member
, Hamm says it’s been great to “see her back on the field” after a torn ACL injury.
“She’s so much the heart of the team, not just on the field but off the field,” says Hamm. “She plays with the motion and her personality is so strong.”
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Heartbroken for the team+staff, for our fans, for my family. Today’s loss will make winning that much sweeter. Learn, grow, and never forget
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) August 12, 2016
The U.S. women return home empty handed but the close-knit team sees a silver lining.
“Today’s loss will make winning that much sweeter. Learn, grow, and never forget,”
Alex Morgan after the loss.
“They’re extremely committed to one another,” explains Hamm. “And to soccer.”