United States players celebrate winning the women's soccer gold medal match as Japan's Aya Miyama, left, reacts at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. The United States won 2-1. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
TOKYO -- Japanese soccer fans who got up before dawn to watch their team take on the U.S. women for the Olympic soccer gold medal started their day with disappointment.
Just over a year ago, Japan enjoyed a stunning victory over the U.S. in the women's World Cup. But on Thursday, it was the Americans who celebrated a 2-1 triumph in the final in London.
Bars and restaurants that showed the game in central Tokyo were packed for the kickoff at 3:45 a.m. local time Friday with fans decked out in the national team's uniforms.
Carli Lloyd scored early in both halves and goalkeeper Hope Solo made a key stop late in the game for the Americans.
"It was a good game but I'm very disappointed. We had our chances but couldn't take advantage," said Yasuhiro Koyama, a 29-year-old office worker who stayed up all night.
Chants of "Nippon! Nippon!" grew louder after Yuki Ogimi cut the deficit to one goal in the 63rd minute, but fans quickly headed out onto the streets at the final whistle where they were greeted by sunlight and early commuters.
"Given that the United States is such a good team, the result is not surprising," said student Takeshi Sakata. "Getting the silver is an impressive result at the Olympics and shows you how far Japanese soccer has progressed."
The women's team goes by the name "Nadeshiko," a pink mountain flower that symbolizes beauty and strength.
Japan beat the United States 3-1 on a penalty shootout in Germany 13 months ago to win the World Cup, a triumph that was a psychological salve for a nation recovering from an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.
There were hopes for another uplifting win over the Americans, but the mood became tense when Lloyd opened the scoring just eight minutes in and doubled the lead early in the second half.
"It's difficult to come from two goals down," said student Yukie Nakano. "But you have to give them credit. They fought hard and brought a lot of excitement to Japan."
Japan was bidding to become the first team to win the World Cup and Olympics in back-to-back years.
The match was a huge draw in Japan especially after the men's team lost to Mexico in the semifinals.