Women's Olympic Football Tournament Atlanta 1996
Since there was no time to hold a qualifying tournament, the eight best teams at the Women's World Cup in 1995 were automatically selected for the Olympic tournament (which meant no teams from Africa or Oceania could take part in this tournament). The only exception was the inclusion of Brazil in place of England (who, under the regulations of the International Olympic Committee are ineligible), and the late substitutes proved their worth...
The United States National Olympic Committee had declared the women's team as potential gold medal winners and invested a lot of money in their preparation. The pressure was on them, but there was also a lot of sympathetic support from the spectators, which helped them live up to their role as favourites. The team earned its success with excellent performances in every game.
China gave an impressive demonstration of the steady progress that they had been making during recent years. Only the buoyant Americans managed to stop them in the final. Up to that stage they had gone from success to success (the only game they did not win was the group game against the USA). They had missed the medals in the last two World Cups, but this time they were rewarded.
The verdict on the other Asian team, Japan, is very different. They almost pulled off the kind of coup against Germany that their male counterparts had achieved against Brazil. But their flagging strength did not enable them to come out on top against the reigning World Cup runners-up. They failed to confirm this level of performance in their remaining games and without scoring any further goals they faded from the competition.
Although Norway produced the expected strong performance and had the Americans on the verge of defeat, Europe lost its dominance in women's football. The current world champions were the only team to come up to expectation and win a medal.
The Brazilians disappointing performance at the World Cup in Sweden prompted the Brazilian association to take action. A new coaching staff was appointed and five new players were integrated into the team. Individual ball skills, good competitive spirit and a balanced mixture of youth and experience were the strengths shown by these Brazilian artists.
The crowd of 76'489 that gathered to watch the women's final between the USA and PR China was then a world record in history of women's sport only to be beaten by the final of the FIFA Women's World Cup three years later with the same pairings before a crowd of over 90'000 in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Los Angeles.