Brazil have secured the last remaining place in the
Women's Olympic Football Tournament at the 2008 Beijing Games,
after easing to a 5-1 play-off victory over Ghana at the Workers
Stadium in the Chinese capital.
The Brazilians swiftly lived up to their pre-match billing as favourites, surging forward at speed to threaten Ghana keeper Memunatu Sulemana's goal. FIFA World Player of the Year Marta served notice of intent on nine minutes, rattling the crossbar after latching onto a Cristiane cross, and the superstar striker duly opened the scoring ten minutes later with a fine free-kick, curled into the top left corner from fully 25 yards (1-0, 19').
The African rearguard struggled to cope with the sprightly Brazilian front line, as Marta and Cristiane combined time and again in a series of dangerous raids. Cristiane it was who capitalised on her strike partner's fine build-up play to lob the onrushing Sulemana from eight yards and double the advantage with half-time approaching (2-0, 42'). For all Ghana's energy and determination, they ended the first half without creating a chance worthy of the name.
After the restart, the 21,185 fans at the stadium saw the game follow a similar pattern, with Brazil firmly in the driving seat and increasingly enjoying a physical edge over their Ghanaian opponents. Aline made it 3-0 on 53 minutes with a firm header direct from a corner (3-0, 53').
The Brazilians extinguished any last flicker of doubt with a quickfire double strike midway through the half, Cristiane nodding home from close range (4-0, 71') and Rosana producing a carbon copy to make it 5-0 just a minute later (5-0, 72').
The courageous Africans never gave up and Anita Amankwa was on hand a short time later to capitalise on a moment's lack of concentration in the Brazilian defence, latching onto a long punt and netting a consolation goal for her side (5-1, 76').
However, Ghana never looked likely to upset the FIFA Women's World Cup runners-up as the Brazilians booked their place in the Olympic starting field.
"The contest was tight in the opening minutes," Marta remarked after the match. "Ghana put some pressure on us early but we started to find our rhythm and we did very well to win the game. Reaching the Olympics is great for us, but it is by no means our final goal."
Ghana boss Mumuni Gamel was feeling a mixture of disappointment and encouragement after the game. "Sure, we lost, but the game gave us a chance to play against one of the best teams in the world," he said. "It's good experience for us and some of our younger players will gain immensely from this game."
The draw for both the Women's and Men's Football Tournaments takes place in Beijing at 7 pm local time tomorrow, Sunday.