China is fast becoming a home-away-from-home for Germany, Brazil and the USA. Just a year since the trio finished first, second and third respectively at the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007, the big guns of the women’s game advanced to the Olympic semi-finals in the very same country. A fourth continent also boasts representation in the shape of Japan, although their delight meant tears for the Chinese hosts. As a result of a hotly-contested day of quarter-final action, the current FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year has another chance to take revenge on the world champions.
The big game
The search for a victor in the all-North American clash took twice as long as originally scheduled, but at the end of a protracted day, the favourites claimed the spoils. Refusing to be knocked out of their stride by a severe thunderstorm which interrupted proceedings for no less than an hour and 40 minutes, the USA squeezed past their neighbours Canada 2-1 after extra-time. The 2004 Olympic gold medallists had Natasha Kai to thank for the winning goal, itself a perfect and perfectly-timed gift for a team-mate celebrating her 100th cap.
The other games
Whenever push has come to shove – the 2001 UEFA Women's Championship final, the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in 2003 and the play-off for bronze at the 2004 Olympics – Germany’s women have come out on top against the Swedes. Birgit Prinz and Co. did it again in China, although an evenly-matched, fiercely-contested 120-minute battle was only settled in extra-time courtesy of Kerstin Garefrekes and Simone Laudehr. The German dream of claiming Olympic gold, the only major honour yet to grace the DFB trophy cabinet, thus lives on.
Not so in the wide expanses of the Qinhuangdao stadium, where some 28,459 fans faced up to the dawning realisation that the dream of gold on home soil had crumbled and died. In a derby atmosphere that was frenetic but never ill-tempered, Japan goal-getters Aya Miyama and Homare Sawa again turned on the style to seal a 2-0 triumph over China PR in the all-Asian duel.
Superstar Marta and her Brazilian team-mates gave another exhibition of joyous and flowing football to overcome the disciplined Norwegians in an eagerly awaited clash of temperament and styles. South American technique trumped Scandinavian tactics 2-1, as the beaten FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007 finalists underlined their impressive title credentials and boosted their already sky-high confidence going into the last four.
The Player: Nadine Angerer (GER)
A number of the Sweden stars may have felt they had unlocked the secret of putting one past Nadine Angerer, as the keeper plays her club football for Djurgardens IF. But the German shot-stopper kept a fourth clean sheet in a row at the Olympics to set a new Games' record. And just in case anyone has forgotten, Angerer went through the entire FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007 without conceding.
100 – The number of minutes played in the quarter-final meeting between Norway and the USA when Shannon Boxx swung over a slide-rule cross for Natasha Kai to nod the winning goal. Remarkably enough, it was the 100th minute of Boxx’s 100th international appearance.
What they said
"We had some trouble scoring goals today and we should have scored more than we did, but we'll try to fix this problem in our training sessions before the semi-finals," Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos on his side scoring only two goals.
All the results
USA - Canada 2-1 aet
Brazil - Norway 2-1
Sweden - Germany 0-2 aet
China VR - Japan 0-2
Japan - USA
Brazil - Germany