Brazil and USA braced for sequel

Just as they did four years ago, Brazil and USA will contest the final of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament. While the venue may be different and the players that bit more experienced, the battle to decide who tops the podium in Beijing should be every bit as intense as the one the two sides waged in Athens.

The game
Brazil-USA, 21 August, 21.00 (local time), Beijing

The context
The Women's Olympic Football Tournament comes to a close on Thursday with the defending champions taking on the side everyone expected to reach the final. The duo earned the right to fight it out for gold after comfortably disposing of Japan and Germany in their respective semis and have grounds for optimism going into the big match.

There is not much these two teams do not know about each other, having squared off three times over the last two and a half months, the Americans winning 1-0 on each occasion. It was during one of those friendlies that Pia Sundhage's side lost Abby Wambach, the scorer of the gold-clinching goal at Athens, to injury. But even in the absence of their star striker, the Americans will be confident of maintaining their hold over the Brazilians. In their 26 meetings, USA have come out on top 22 times, drawing twice and losing only twice, although one of those defeats was a comprehensive 4-0 semi-final reverse at the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007.

Despite that negative record, the South Americans are hopeful of reprising their excellent performance against Germany and claiming the prize they came so close to at Athens. Much will depend on the deadly strike partnership of Marta and Cristiane, who took her Olympic goal haul into double figures in the semis. If the twosome can reproduce the kind of form that demolished the Americans in China last year, they will take some stopping.

The players to watch: Cristiane (BRA) and Hope Solo (USA)
The Brazilian striker has fulfilled her rich potential on the Olympic stage by scoring ten goals in two tournaments to date. Indeed, her coolness in front of goal was a decisive factor in the Canarinha's 4-1 win over Germany in the previous round. If she is to help her side exact revenge for defeat four years ago, however, she will need to find a way past Hope Solo, USA's imposing blonde-haired goalkeeper, who has conceded just five times in Beijing so far. The outcome of this duel could decide the destiny of the gold medal.

The numbers game
18 -
The number of players who lined up at the Athens 2004 final and will be doing so again on Thursday. In all there are eight survivors in the USA squad and ten in Brazil's.

The quotes
"We know that the Brazil side is full of talented players, especially up front. But the 2007 World Cup semi-final is history now and what matters is the present and this final," USA midfielder Kate Markgraf.

"We haven't won anything yet and it would be a huge mistake to get carried away just because we beat Germany. In fact, the mistakes we made in that game would be fatal in a final and we have to treat USA with respect," Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos.