By Helen Michaels
Rio’s soccer fans wouldn’t let USA goalie Hope Solo off the deck for her warnings about the Zika virus.
Solo overcame more taunts yesterday as she helped the USA to its second consecutive win at these Olympics despite being consistently jeered with cries of “Zika.”
Solo, 35, in her 200th career appearance for the USA, was targeted every time she touched the ball during a 1-0 victory against France at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, in what was expected to be the team’s toughest test in Group G of the 12-team’s tournament.
The crowd’s ire emanated from Solo’s public comments and social media messages regarding first her reluctance to travel to Brazil and then her decision to pack huge amounts of mosquito repellent due to the Zika virus.
Health officials have claimed that Zika causes microcephaly in newborn babies, and Solo has admitted she wishes to have children with husband Jerramy Stevens, a former NFL player.
The chants began midway through the USA’s 2-0 victory vs. New Zealand in its opening game on Wednesday. However, the Americans comfortably controlled possession on that night, meaning Solo was rarely called into action.
Things were very different against France, ranked No. 3 in the world, as the volume increased through the contest — which was decided by Carli Lloyd’s 65th-minute goal.
Solo had regular touches in the early stages and was forced into a fine fingertip save on a shot from French captain Wendie Renard in the 17th minute. She did not appear flustered by the crowd noise — but that did not stop the audience from getting louder and louder.
With many Olympic athletes having voiced Zika concerns, it is not immediately clear why Solo has been singled out more than any other competitor.
“I wish people would understand that I did my due diligence before coming to Brazil,” Solo told Sports Illustrated. “It was a personal decision I had to make alongside my husband and it’s not something I just spoke about without getting educated on.”
Solo remains arguably the finest goalkeeper in the women’s game and is one of the most important cogs in the American machine. The U.S. juggernaut rolls on, Lloyd’s second-half effort that went in off her shin following fine buildup work from Tobin Heath being the difference between the sides.