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After gold win, women's soccer team glows with joy (not booze)

It was deja vu all over again for goalie Hope Solo and her teammates from the U.S. women's soccer team on Friday when they appeared on TODAY the morning after a gold medal victory, just as they had four years ago in Beijing. But this time their smiles were fueled only by the euphoria of victory.

That was in contrast to the morning after they beat Brazil in Beijing, when, according to what Solo admitted to ESPN the Magazine, she and some other players were still tipsy from the previous evening's revels when they appeared on TODAY.

On Friday, Matt Lauer asked Solo if he would also be reading about this interview after the fact, but she assured him that the perma-grins on their faces were all natural.

“We are well-hydrated this morning,’’ she joked.

On Thursday Solo was part of an all-around sterling effort in front of 80,203 fans at Wembley Stadium that resulted in a 2-1 win over Japan for the team's third gold medal in the last three Olympics. She made several acrobatic saves, including stopping a 2-on-1 breakaway by smacking away a point-blank shot with both hands in the 83rd minute to preserve a thrilling win.

“I think my heart was in my throat as well,’’ Solo said. “You train so hard as a goalkeeper, you train day in and day out to make those saves, and then you never know if you’re going to have your moment. You never know when the game is going to ask you to make that save, so I had to make it in one game this tournament, in the final game in the 83rd minute.’’

Solo had powerful emotions about the game, but she was able to rein them in to focus.

"I actually was crying on the back of the bus going to the game,'' Solo told Savannah Guthrie in a later segment on TODAY Friday. "(I was) crying for the gratitude I have for this kind of opportunity to fulfill my dreams.''

She also shook off a flare-up earlier in the games when she made headlines after tweeting some critical comments about NBC commentator and former U.S. soccer team member Brandi Chastain.

"There's always controversy,'' Solo told Guthrie. "I think a lot of things are made out to be more than they really are or what is necessary. I have opinions about commentary and other things as well. Everybody can have an opinion.''

In addition to Solo, midfielder Carli Lloyd was another hero as she scored both goals against Japan, four years after she scored the winning goal in overtime to beat Brazil.

“I was counting down the minutes from 70 on,’’ Lloyd said about the pressure-packed game. “I think it’s all in the mind, so whatever you visually prepare comes true.’’

“I think that more than anything, this was just a complete team win,’’ forward Abby Wambach said. “Carli, she comes on, plays a lot of minutes in this tournament - every single player from the first to the last. I just can’t be more proud of this group of people.’’

Now that the Americans have made it three in a row, the focus turns to 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. A backbone of the team throughout its remarkable run in the last 12 years has been veteran defender Christie Rampone. Her teammates jokingly bowed to her on TODAY before making their bid to get her to return for another four years. A mother of two from Point Pleasant, N.J., Rampone, 37, did not rule out the possibility of Rio.

“They keep trying to convince me,’’ Rampone said amid chants of “Four more years!” by her teammates. “I do have it in me, but we’ll see.’’

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