US golden girls do it again
© AFP

The United States made sure their status as legends in the Women's Olympic Football Tournament is safe, winning the 2008 edition in Beijing to make it three gold from four instalments.

After beginning slowly with a shock 2-0 loss to old enemy Norway - the only other side to win a women's Olympic finals - Pia Sundhage's Americans rebounded to find their form and improved with every match. They struggled past Japan and eased by New Zealand to finish top of their group, before meeting Brazil in a final re-play from four years before in Athens. A single goal from Carli Lloyd sealed the game in extra-time.

Without their long-time captain Kristine Lilly and ace striker Abby Wambach, who suffered a broken leg on the eve of the Beijing Games, the Americans oozed an effective and collective look and feel, spurred on by the emphasis on passing and technique gleaned from new coach Sundhage.

Brazil, denied again
Again it was heartache for the Brazilians, who looked the finest group of individual players on display in China. Cristiane finished tournament top scorer with five goals and FIFA World Player of the Year Marta inspired a fantastic 4-1 rout of Germany in the semi-final before the South Americans were pipped at the wire by the Americans, who took revenge for a 4-0 defeat handed them by Jorge Barcellos' ladies one year earlier in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup.

"I can't ask for anything more from my players. They were fantastic throughout this the tournament," was the bitter-sweet assessment of coach Barcellos after the final at the Workers' Stadium.

The best of the rest
Japan flew the flag proudest for the Asian continent at the 2008 Games, roaring through to the semi-finals after a 5-1 rout of Norway in their final group game saw them through to the quarter-finals. After disposing of neighbours, archrivals and hosts China 2-0 in the last eight, they came up just short, losing 4-2 to eventual champions USA. With technique and class to spare, defence and goalkeeping problems haunted the so-called Nadeshiko.

Canada, playing in their first finals, showed that the United States are not the only women's power in North America, strolling through a tough group with Sweden and China PR. They pushed the US to extra time in their quarter-final, but came up just short in what would have been a historic victory over their oldest and closest foe.

The biggest surprise of the finals may well have been the poor performance put in by reigning world champions Germany. After finished second to Brazil in a difficult group section, the Europeans dispatched an out-of-sorts and ageing Sweden before being battered 4-1 by Brazil in the semi-final. Usual goal machine Birgit Prinz never quite looked herself as the Germans took consolation in a bronze medal from a win over Japan.

Participating nations:
China PR, Sweden, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Korea DPR, Nigeria, USA, Norway, Japan, New Zealand.

Finishers:
1. USA (Gold)
2. Brazil (Silver)
3. Germany (Bronze)
4. Japan

Host stadia, cities:
The Workers' Stadium (Beijing), Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Center Stadium (Qinhuangdao), Shanghai Stadium (Shanghai), Shenyang Olympic Sports Center Wu Lihe Stadium (Shenyang), Tianjin Olympic Sports Center Stadium (Stadium)

No. of goals:
66 (average/game: 2.53)

Top scorers:
5 goals: Cristiane (BRA)
4 goals: Angela Hucles (USA)
3 goals: Marta (BRA), Lotta Schelin (SWE), Homare Sawa (JPN)

Total attendance:
740,014

Average attendance:
28,462