THE DAY REPLAYED – The semi-finals of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 saw repeated fixtures from the group stages, and they threw up their fair share of déjà vu and retribution as Sweden and Germany guaranteed themselves a medal by progressing to Friday’s final.

Sweden produced an exact replica of their quarter-final scoreline against USA after taking Brazil to penalties following a goalless 120 minutes. The supreme defensive performance by the Swedes was a far cry from their crushing 5-1 defeat to Brazil in Group E just ten days ago. The shoot-out itself threw up several moments onlookers must have thought they had seen before, with Barbara saving a spot-kick following an iconic forward’s miss, with Cristiane failing to convert after Marta had done the same in the quarter-final. This time though, it was Sweden who made a direct repeat of their quarter-final win, with Lisa Dahlkvist once more converting the winning penalty to make it 4-3 – just as it was against USA.

Melanie Behringer must have reminisced about her penalty against Canada in the group stages as Kadeisha Buchanan scythed down Alexandra Popp in the Canadian penalty area. Behringer again made no mistake in converting coolly past Stephanie Labbe - the same goalkeeper - with a thumping effort. It was an opening goal, as it had been against the Canadians in their Group F clash exactly one week prior, but this time the Germans exacted revenge, thanks to Sara Dabritz’s second half strike which rubberstamped the victory and confirmed a medal for the Germans.

Results
Semi-finals
Brazil 0-0 Sweden AET (3-4 PSO)
Canada 0-2 Germany

Goal of the day
Canada 0-2 Germany, Sara Dabritz (59’)
Anja Mittag received the ball with her back to goal, turning her body to find the No13, who was bursting forward to join the attack. Dabritz turned inside onto her right foot with a skilful feint and, with Buchanan facing her up, slammed the ball past the despairing Labbe who stood no chance.

Memorable moments
Brazil fans see gold at the Maracana
As the home fans watched and hoped to see their idols on the pitch play for a gold medal on Friday, they got a glimpse in the stands of somebody who knows what it takes to become an Olympic champion. Judo gold medal winner Rafaela Silva was watching A Selecao’s semi-final against Sweden and the crowd spotted her after extra time, just before the decisive shoot-out. They began chanting “É campeão!” (“it’s the champion!”), a traditional Brazilian chant. She was wearing the gold medal, which at the time of her final was her country’s first at Rio 2016. It was, however, not to be a positive omen for the hosts.

Dahlkvist does it again
Lisa Dahlkvist is what the American sports fraternity call a ‘clutch’ player: an individual confident in their ability to play the key role in the most decisive sporting moments. When faced by Hope Solo, a goalkeeper who has kept over 100 international clean sheets, in the Rio 2016 quarter-final shoot-out, she slammed home a spot-kick after a wait that would have driven lesser players to distraction. Therefore, when the moment came for Pia Sundhage to decide her fifth penalty taker in the semi-final against the hosts, there was only one name to be put forwards. In a quirk of fate, the Swedish No7 was given the opportunity to perform the exact same task – make the score 4-3 and win the shoot-out. She made no mistake, lashing the ball past Barbara to send her side into the final and guarantee her country a medal.

Dabritz graduates in Rio
Sara Dabritz has earned her right to play in the senior German side, having played a starring role in various Frauen youth teams. She made her first appearance on the global stage scoring three goals at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup on the way to fourth place in 2012 before five goals in six games helped her country to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup title in 2014. She grabbed two more in her senior tournament debut last summer in Canada but ended up fourth again. In the semi-final game against Canada, the Germans needed a cushion against the dangerous Canucks, and Dabritz surely ensured her status as a tournament stalwart for years to come as the 21-year-old grabbed the crucial second strike. German fans will be hoping it will be déjà vu for Dabritz, if she can follow up another fourth place with another title.

The words

Abby Wambach, former USA international and gold medal winner in 2004 and 2012.

Next matchday
Friday 19 August 
Bronze medal match
Brazil – Canada, Sao Paulo, Arena Corinthians, 13.00 

Gold medal match
Sweden – Germany, Rio de Janeiro, Maracana, 17.30 
(All times local)